"Turning Housing into Hotels," Feature, 9/16
Airbnb Encourages Bad Behavior
What is truly creepy is how this is all done in the name of "improving the local economy," i.e. the ads that tout how much local businesses thrive on all the Airbnb clientele, and how easy it is to not follow even the laws that are in place. For example, in Los Angeles, I stayed in an Airbnb, which was being rented out by not the owner but the renter who lived in another time zone and had been making money like a bandit doing that for many moons. I sincerely doubt the owner was even aware that his or her unit was on Airbnb.
Jeanette Sarmiento, Lafayette
Sharing Economy Means Breaking the Law
Definition and particularly how one defines oneself can influence the direction and context of a conversation. This so-called "sharing economy" seems to always be defined by those who are new service providers and quickly getting rich doing the sharing. The problem is that whether it is Airbnb or Uber, these folks aren't sharing, they are simply not following any of the rules applicable to those already providing the service.
No matter how cool these hipsters want to spin their phone-linked activities, at the end of the day, they are breaking the law. Airbnb is unregulated transient habitation. Uber is a car service in which the owners use a website to basically set up ride connections and transfer all other responsibilities of a car service to the drivers. Uber wants the drivers to maintain the vehicles, pay for their own insurance, call themselves contractors, and work whenever Uber wants. The company doesn't even do sufficient background checks to provide the public with a basic comfort that the driver is not a serial killer.
To define that as the new sharing economy, where these hipsters skim the profits off the top and move all of the responsibilities of an employer to the employee, is disingenuous at best.
Whether it is in cyber space or on the ground, the legal system is always behind in regulating these new business models. In a region such as the Bay Area, where permanent housing for people is at a premium, we cannot afford to let these scofflaws further deplete the availability of housing for residents. Cities need to get their acts together to not only regulate but to protect the housing stock and neighborhoods.
Further, let's stop it with the hipster pinhead word spinning and call it what it is. If it looks like a duck, waddles and quacks, it's a duck. Just because it has one green and one red tennis shoe and a skateboard does not make it a hamster.
Gary Patton, Hayward
"Opposing Junipero Serra," News, 9/16
As a person whose De Castro family members were part of the Serra, De Anza, and Portola expeditions, I have great sympathy and empathy for both sides of this issue. There certainly were overzealous soldiers then just as we have bad cops now. I would presume that the indigenous populations also had their good and bad people. Whether Junipero Serra actively participated in mistreatment, beatings, etc. is most likely not known except from writings of the people of that time.
I certainly would humbly offer words of apology to any indigenous family who truly believed that anyone in our family participated in any of the heinous acts. I'm not sure, beyond that, what anyone can reasonably do at this time. I do believe, however, that Serra was trying to do the best he could, considering his most difficult mission and his failing health.
Cris Castro, Auburn
"What About Motorcycles and Scooters," Letters, 9/16
Oakland Has the Worst Two-Wheel Parking, By Far
I was happy to see a letter about Oakland's lack of motorcycle/scooter parking. I commute to this fair city every work day on a motorcycle. Compared to other neighboring cities such as Berkeley or San Francisco, Oakland has the worst two-wheel parking, by far. Instead of encouraging these compact and fuel-efficient vehicles, Oakland makes it impossible to park them legally.
Urban motorcycle parking involves a gray area of law and enforcement. Under most circumstances, one does not get a ticket for simply violating a time restriction when parked between cars if the adjacent meters are paid. This could charitably be considered a progressive policy of encouraging infill parking. But with the rampant proliferation of disabled placards, almost no downtown meters are paid for, so tickets go to the only target — motorcycles. And I've seen scores of curbs that were too small for car parking, previously full of bikes, now painted red.
It's time for Oakland to step up and help, not persecute, motorcycles and scooters.
Lincoln Cushing, Berkeley
"A Sea Change in Emeryville," News, 9/9
Stop Blocking the Views!
First thing Emeryville should do is raze the hideous fifty-plus story condo unit and the view-blocking eyesores opposite that one must see driving toward the Bay Bridge. The utter lack of respect for height limits in harmony with the hills and bay are a testimony to the stupidity of its former leaders and the greed of developers.
Bee Montigue, Richmond
Oakland's Backward Thinking," Seven Days, 9/9
What about Rail?
Does anyone in the woebegone Oakland political community ever suggest fixed rail lines to provide alternative transportation to residents and visitors? It's not just San Francisco and Manhattan where one can find such civic development. Long Beach did the same thing years ago. And every town of any size has one in Germany.