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Letters for the week of November 4-10

Readers sound off on planning department transparency, the city's attitude towards sex workers, and the Warriors' disregard for their hometown

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"The True Sharing Economy," Feature, 11/4

Reich Is Right

Robert Reich (an economist and UC Berkeley professor) coined a pretty accurate term for Uber, Airbnb, etc.'s tech exploitation of people and assets for investor profit: It's a "share-the-scraps economy."

Joe Gont, Berkeley


"Special Deal Would Benefit Influential Developer," News, 11/4

Good Plan, Crap Process

Looking at the Broadway/Valdez [District] Specific Plan height areas map, it looks like 85 feet on that side of Broadway was the plan, save for the little 45-foot carve-out between 24th and 25th streets (which I assume is the property in question). I'd say allowing more density there is fine and certainly not inconsistent with the general intent of the community plan, in my view.

So, [it] seems to me to be a) good planning practice, and b) crap process. Typical these days, sadly.

Nefarious and corrupt? I doubt it highly.

Justin Horner, Oakland

If It Quacks Like a Duck

The issue here is really not about the zoning changes proposed. Whether or not a new Signature development would be appropriate or not on the affected parcels is only a side note. The issue at the forefront of the story is all about transparency.

The City of Oakland seemingly has a real problem in this area. What is even more disturbing is that it is happening at the top levels of government. The backroom shenanigans that went on behind closed doors in the UrbanCore [Development LLC] housing proposal on East 12th Street was not only illegal, it was shameful and should have been embarrassing. Apparently, no lessons were learned.

Of course, paid lobbyists and attorneys will argue both sides of an issue for the right price, and that is just how it works. However, the one thing that is critical for the public is that the purity of the process is never compromised. Public trust that whatever the recommendation or decision, the planning department is diligent in making sure that the process is both legal and taking place in the light of day is paramount.

In this case, the planning director sits on [Urban Land Institute] panels with Mike Ghielmetti proclaiming that there is no housing crisis in Oakland. Then magically, his newly acquired sites get included at the last minute, buried in a complicated zoning change proposal.

In addition, two weeks ago, Signature proposed to significantly change the open space mitigation required for demolition of the 9th Street terminal in the Brooklyn Basin development. The planning staff supported its cheapened design, suggesting that it met all of the required findings. Clearly, as expressed by the Express and most outside observers, it did not. Thank God the planning commission said "no."

You could never prove that there was an inside deal, but if it has feathers and a beak, waddles and quacks, it must be a duck.

Hey, Ms. [Rachel] Flynn (planning director), making money for developers is not in your job description. Making sure that you and your staff follow the law and facilitate the process in the light of day is in your job description. Whether you make good decisions or not may be debatable, but preserving your integrity and the public trust is way more important than any land use decision or recommendation you will ever make. Whether you know it or not, that is where your real power comes from.

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

$8 Beers: The New 'Secret Sauce'

The impact of this will be to basically displace the 25th Street galleries that are symbiotic with Oakland Art Murmur and price artists out of the area they cultivated before anyone wanted to develop there. That's just bad policy, one which makes Mayor [Libby] Schaaf's task force on affordable housing for artists seem like a cruel joke, if not a PR/propaganda move. Ironically, affordable housing and artist spaces were a primary topic of discussion at the recent "[Uptown] Techonomic [Development] Forum," held at — you guessed it — Impact Hub.

This article confirmed anecdotal and evidentiary reports that the city's planning commission does not have the creative community in mind and, in fact, is allowing developers to determine the future of what is supposed to be an arts district — which may not have any artists or galleries left by the time the mayor's task force gets around to actually doing something.

How interesting, since [planning department] staffer Alicia Parker recently conceded that the city itself has no idea what "cultural equity" looks like. Unless the mayor suddenly gets a clue, the special sauce of Oakland she's so fond of referencing will be hella gone, as techbros sipping $8 beers and scarfing $14 fish and chips appetizers becomes the city's new flavor, and the diversity everyone loves so much will be banished to San Leandro and Antioch.

Sneaky, backhanded actions like this, which show a complete lack of integrity, are among the reasons why the creative community has been forced to defend Oakland's culture, establishing groups like Soul of Oakland and the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition. We are doing our best to #KeepOaklandCreative, but it appears the rug is being pulled out from under us, even as I type this.

Eric Arnold, Oakland

Thanks, NIMBY

I usually hate NIMBYism and how it tends to find common cause with "progressive" politics to keep rents high. The Mason has a total of 104 units. That's it. If it built any more, the neighbors would complain about height, and if it built any less, then rents would be much higher than the $2,800 for a one-bedroom. Go visit the property, a good chunk of it is walking space between 23rd and 24th [streets]. If such a big fuss is made about 104 units, how is Oakland going build housing for anyone?

On the other hand, I just bought in the area, and it will be to my benefit to keep rents high. So I guess if I can't beat 'em, might as well join them. So thank you, Express, for doing your part in making sure the members of the community oppose any housing in general. My nest egg and property value is much better off as a result.

Clarence C. Johnson, Oakland


"Oakland Takes Stand Against Sex Workers," News, 11/4

Morality Versus Reason

I think the reason this debate results in people talking past each other so much is because each side of the debate is arguing about a very different thing from the other. [Decriminalization] advocates, including current sex workers, sex worker advocacy groups, the World Health Organization, and Amnesty International argue from a policy position that makes sex worker safety and well-being are primary. The result is that arguments against what are seen as threats to safety and well-being — criminalization, stigma, and treating sex workers as if, uniformly, they are victims and have no agency — reinforces the paternalism with which they are treated and allows prohibitionists to displace them in public discourse.

Prostitution prohibitionists' focus is on social message and political statement and the role of prostitution in the cultural reproduction of a) patriarchal exploitation (for feminists), or b) debasing immorality (for the religious right), or c) capitalist exploitation (for certain ahistorical leftists who seem unaware that prostitution has existed in every political and economic system ever established).

So the argument really boils down to what you think is more important to pursue as a matter of public policy. From the perspective of [decriminalization] advocates, such as myself, the point is that criminalization causes additional harms specific to sex workers.

The politics and morality that put abstract political ideals and personal morals ahead of the human rights of actual people is what gave us the Swedish model of criminalization. This can be seen in the statements of the originators of the Swedish model, for whom negative effects on sex workers was seen as a good thing and part of the strategy to eliminate prostitution, to drive women from the trade. It's intended to send a message to society: No matter the collateral damage to sex workers evicted by landlords ensnared as pimps because they derive economic benefit from prostitution; sex workers forced to work alone, who working together for security and support would be deemed guilty of operating a brothel; sex workers unable to hire drivers and security, who would also be considered pimps; migrant sex workers deported back to the desperate situations they fled; sex workers who have to pick from a more dangerous smaller set of potential clients because only the better safer clients are scared off by threat of arrest and have to negotiate transactions with them more quickly, more furtively, [and] more dangerously.

It is a narcissistic morality and politics that values its projection of the virtue of the holder over the harm caused by it to others — this can be seen by how the specter of child exploitation is routinely invoked as a cover for going after consensual adult activity. It's a morality and politics pursued against reason, toward the elimination of prostitution—like its kindred movements, alcohol prohibition and the drug war.

Peter Schafer, Brooklyn, New York


"The Golden Ones," News, 11/4

The Warriors Disrespect Oakland

The Warriors have done very well for themselves, but the problem is that their host city of Oakland is marginalized and pushed aside even as it has been the most loyal and successful city in the NBA. How can the Warriors' success story be told without mentioning the ugly and disloyal aspect of that success?

The fact of the matter is that Oakland is not benefiting as it should for having such a popular NBA champion franchise playing within its city limits. There is no name recognition for the city when the Warriors are on the road. There is no such thing as the city of "Golden State." The name should have been "Oakland" Warriors. The Warriors also play up San Francisco while playing their home games in Oakland as the networks are encouraged to use San Francisco imagery during national telecasts. For opening night at Oracle Arena in Oakland, the TNT pre-game show was held not at Oakland's Lake Merritt or in Oakland's Jack London Square, but instead at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. The Warriors also held their opening night festivities at Fisherman's Wharf. Oakland's love affair with the Warriors seems to be a one-way infatuation.

As a reward for Oakland's 43 years of incredible support and a renovated arena in 1997, the Warriors are now planning to invest $1 billion, not in Oakland, but in San Francisco. The Warriors seem to value and romanticize their failed nine years in Daly City as the "San Francisco" Warriors, where they averaged less than 5,000 fans per game, much more than they value their very successful 43 years in Oakland. The Warriors push their "The City" merchandise without ever selling anything in 43 years with a whiff of "Oakland." The Warriors and the NBA have deemed Oakland immaterial and unimportant and have consistently disrespected this proud city. Oakland has done everything all wealthy sports owners and leagues ask of host cities and yet is still losing its NBA franchise to San Francisco.

When we talk about the Warriors' incredible success, let's understand that much of that success is built on the back of the City of Oakland and on the backs of loyal Oakland and East Bay fans. Much of that success is based on marginalizing Oakland in the hopes that others won't notice, or worst, won't care. Much of that success is based on kicking Oakland out of the limelight and giving the attention to San Francisco. So far, the recipe of shoving Oakland aside and into the shadows has worked wonderfully well for the Warriors and, in a way, reflects poorly on many in the Bay Area who are just on the bandwagon and view the disrespect that Oakland must endure as just collateral damage.

The corporate pro-San Francisco media for the most part goes along with this travesty and refuses to hold Warriors' ownership and the NBA accountable for the disrespect and economic harm being perpetuated on Oakland.

Let's remember the folks in Oakland who will lose their jobs when the Warriors take [its] home dates to San Francisco. Let's remember the hotel and restaurant employees who may lose their jobs in Oakland when the concerts and ice shows are moved to the shiny new arena in San Francisco. Let's also remember the potential loss of revenue for the City of Oakland and the negative national punch in the eye the city will receive as the Warriors send an implicit message that they don't view Oakland as a good place for their $1 billion investment.

All is not rainbows and unicorns in Warriors World and someone needs to call out the Warriors and the NBA for how they are hurting and disrespecting their host city.

Elmano Gonsalves, Pleasant Hill


"An Identity Crisis at Mills," Culture Spy, 11/4

Support Book Arts!

I am a parent of a child who graduated from Mills College, as well as chair of the MFA in Writing Program at California College of the Arts, where we have a small book arts program begun by the great Betsy Davids. Her retirement left us with a quarter-time instructor who teaches in other programs and many fewer students, who take advantage of the one course we can offer every year. I completely support the great artist Kathy Walkup's remarkable years doing this work. Thank you for the article. Organize students, organize faculty to sustain this important program.

Gloria Frym, Berkeley


"A Decolonial Cookbook," What the Fork, 11/4

Vegetarianism Is Colonialism

Decolonize Your Diet — too bad it's not! Unfortunately, I knew the authors would follow the path of most colonized people, to recommend a veggie-centric diet.

It's true that most people do need to stop eating processed "foods of commerce." Those are not healthy, but also having the freedom and knowledge to recommend fresh lard over processed canola oil would be an important stand to make for traditional diets and would be free from Western medical myths.

How sad the authors, along with Bryant Terry, play right into colonizing Eurocentric vegetarian diet — that is the biggest farce and shows unfortunately how colonized they are. All traditional diets included animal fats for substance — and whole cooking of animal parts. I also have studied diets via old cookbooks. I found the truth of native people — don't go with [these] recommendations and white people diet trends.

Marlese Carroll, Hayward

Award

Express Arts & Culture editor Sarah Burke won a first-place award in the 30th Annual Excellence in Journalism Awards of the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California Chapter. Burke's award came in the Arts & Culture category for her October 15, 2014 cover story, "Moral Combat." Her piece explored Gamergate, the vicious harassment campaign that's been chasing women out of the video game industry. Her report also looked at how East Bay female developers have been trying to reclaim the video game art form.

The SPJ said Burke's story "captures nuances about gaming and the kinds of voices that are trying to break into a world that is fighting to keep them out."

Burke's award was in the print/small division for newspapers of less than 100,000 circulation. The Express was the only alt weekly to win an award in this year's contest.

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