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Letters for the Week of September 5

Readers sound off on youth curfews, Tom Bates, and Prop 32.


"'Liberal Doesn't Always Mean Liberal," UC Berkeley Student Guide, 8/22

The Writing on the Wall?

Thanks! Your blurb about "liberal" in Berkeley is one of the most succinct and clear explanations of our dysfunctional town! I am framing it and will give copies to all those people who ask me about the ultra-liberal leanings of Berkeley.

Thanks for a great job.

Marlon Maus, Berkeley

Enough Bates Boosterism

The recent edition welcoming new students to UC Berkeley and the surrounding community was well-done overall. It was, however, disappointing (again) for Robert Gammon to present such a myopic perspective on Berkeley politics as it relates to development. Gammon has consistently promoted Mayor Tom Bates, and in this article misleads students to think that downtown development will bring more housing at lower rents for students. In reality, the development plan pushed by Bates will result in massive high-rise condominiums that will be very expensive and unaffordable to most local workers, let alone students. If Gammon was a baseball announcer he would be a "homer" for the Bates agenda.

Most people in Berkeley do support a downtown improvement plan that would actually provide housing for local workers at affordable levels, versus huge condos for the very wealthy.

Jim Millins, Berkeley

NIMFY, Either

Robert Gammon is a shill for Mayor Bates, and has been for the past three years that I've read his column. It's most amazing that the Express, a publication that serves our community well, allows him to publish such drivel. He derides the public who come to council meetings to plead their causes, always rejected, and calls Berkeley residents NIMBY (not in my backyard) snivelers. Well, I am a Berkeley resident, and a so-called NIMBY. In fact, I don't want most of what Gammon supports in my front yard either. Is his purpose to take over both of my yards?

Two other questions: What has Bates given you, Mr. Gammon, to be his broken mouthpiece? And, where in the world do you live? It would be hard to believe it is Berkeley. Finally, in your article lauding Bates, the picture is at least ten years old. Why not use the more current one the San Francisco Chronicle published in its May 27, 2012 edition: It is far more telling of an old pol out to sack his community.

Victoria Peirotes, Berkeley

Stop West Berkeley Project's Phase 3

Robert Gammon's article tells UC students that people like me are to blame for high student rents in Berkeley. His reasoning is a chain of vague political characterizations unsupported by any specific instances, leading to an exhortation on behalf of a questionable redistricting. In the middle, he concludes that obstructionist NIMBYs are responsible for high students' rents. He is wrong.

He may be referring in part to the Berkeley City Council's current plan to transform West Berkeley by destroying our beloved West Berkeley Plan, which was developed by a process of community consensus, and which the council passed unanimously in 1993.

I am one of dozens of West Berkeley's industrial business employers who oppose the destruction. As information about the project has come out, formerly uninvolved residents have been galvanized into participating publicly. They are almost universally opposed. Our West Berkeley community has worked for decades to build the neighborhood into today's vibrant mixture of large and small manufacturing, artisans, and recycling businesses living in close harmony with residents. It's a satisfyingly diverse ecology of commerce.

Now a city council-mandated planning juggernaut, the West Berkeley Project, threatens to replace the West Berkeley Plan. The first two phases of the project are already law. But the goal of Phase Three is to build massive high-rise labs and insular multi-acre communities. More than 100 acres would be affected. The project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) describes dozens of serious negative effects that can't be mitigated. Council accepted them anyway. The West Berkeley Plan had none.

We're afraid, frankly. Some existing businesses could be displaced, along with their services. The EIR shows many homes in the shadows of high-rises. Views both from upper Berkeley and the Bayfront would be blotted out. Traffic at the entries to town would become even more congested.

Ironically, most business owners I know are ourselves developers. We aren't, as Mr. Gammon tells readers, "preservationists" who "live in rent-controlled apartments" or who "own homes with absurdly low property taxes" and come together only to "scream at the city council." Allied with us in opposing the project's impacts at the testifying stages were residents, neighborhood groups, and several non-governmental organizations.

Mr. Gammon is right about one thing: We "packed City Hall chambers," meaning we vastly outnumbered the handful of proponents — mostly big developers and land speculators. This packing happened at every public hearing for over four years. Reliably, businesses and an increasing number of residents showed up to discuss our ideas rationally and reasonably in the one- and two-minute sound bites we were allowed. But the city council and its appointed commissioners ignored our reasoning and caved to the moneyed interests. Mr. Gammon apparently applauds their vote but doesn't say why. He castigates the opposition without venturing an argument.

This tone is unfortunate and the direction unnecessary. The community might have put together a deal, given a chance. Although my role was small, I was one of about 85 people recognized as architects of the successful and popular West Berkeley Plan, which amazingly achieved consensus under the very different management style of Mayor Tom Bates' wife, former Mayor Loni Hancock. Another of the many architects was Councilman Max Anderson who, before being outvoted this time 6-3 in the final stages of the project debacle, called it a "foul exercise."

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