Urban planning

Mitch Kapor’s Berkeley home: The debate continues

Kapor home modelThis last few days, Berkeleyside’s inbox has been filling up with copies of letters from north Berkeley neighbors — addressed to council members and/or the city mayor — opposed to the construction of a new home at 2707 Rose St., the application for which, made by Mitch Kapor, has been approved by Berkeley’s planning board, but which is being appealed.

If this isn’t a saga, we don’t know what is. But it’s a live issue here in our city which many people feel strongly about. Hence our commitment to covering it as best we can. Here’s the story so far:

On January 28, Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board approved a plan submitted on behalf of Mitchell Kapor to build a new home at 2707 Rose Street. The approval is being appealed. The zoning board is due to hear the appeal on April 27.

Berkeleyside first drew attention to this issue on Jan. 25. The original application can be viewed here and drawings associated with the application can be seen here. The full appeal can be viewed here. We published an explanation of the thinking behind the appeal, written by architect Gary Parsons, here.

A group of neighbors supports Mitch Kapor’s proposed home. You can read about their views here. These views are challenged by another group of neighbors, whose opinions can be read here.

The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) is supporting the appeal. Read BAHA President Daniella Thompson’s letter outlining BAHA’s stand here.

The letters we have received in the past few days touch on a variety of issues. Eight are published below (and you’ll understand if, for space reasons, we put a page break in this post).

Also worth noting: Berkeleyside has been in touch with Mitch Kapor himself who says he will not be making a comment at the moment as he doesn’t have anything to add to what Susan and Paul Opsvig, his potential immediate neighbors, and his architects, Donn Logan and Marcy Wong, have already contributed to Berkeleyside.

…………………….

To, the Mayor and City Council Members
c/o City Clerk
2180 Milvia St.
Berkeley, CA  94704

Letter in support of the appeal, 2707 Rose St. project

Dear Mayor and City of Berkeley Councilmembers,

I would just like to comment, that if this structure is built to scale as proposed,
the expenditure in materials, labor, transportation (including hauling – use of fossil fuels and
emissions) will be massive.

All for a “home” for 2 people?  Whatever happened to the principle,
of not taking more than one’s share (from the planet)?

If individuals like the Kapors, who have the means to build anything they want, cannot agree
to live somewhat modestly for the benefit of our environment, would the city of Berkeley
please develop an ethic of scale to protect the rest of us?

Thank you,
Lucinda Olney

……………………..

John Burritt McArthur

2712 Stuart Street

Berkeley, CA 94705

Tel (510) 649-0389

Email umacs1@aol.com

April 12, 2010

Berkeley City Council

c/o City Clerk

City of Berkeley

2180 Milvia Street, First Floor

Berkeley, CA 94704

Dear City Council:

I have lived in Berkeley  since 1994. I came to Berkeley to get a Ph.D in public policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, a degree I received in 2003. I have also practiced law in the Bay Area, for most of that time as a partner of Hosie McArthur LLP in San Francisco. I should quickly add that I do not represent, directly or indirectly, any party in this matter, and my area of practice involves complex commercial cases, arbitration, and oil and gas, not land use or zoning. I am writing this letter solely in my capacity as a concerned, long-term Berkeley resident.


I am writing because of an issue that has given me a deep concern about an important aspect of Berkeley city government. A few weeks ago, I read a short article on SFGate about the almost uniquely large house approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) for 2707 Rose Street. The story and the house sounded so unusual that I began finding out more.

What I learned about the zoning approval process for the 2707 Rose Street house astounded me, is at odds with the way an open and transparent government would function, and is vastly at odds with the way Berkeley’s city government should function. My concern is not only procedural; there are major substantive problems with the report as well.

To mention a few of the substantive problems first, problems that show something has gone astray with the ZAB report: The Zoning Adjustment Board staff found that there are no “locally designated historic resources” in the vicinity. In fact, this huge house will be in the middle of one of the largest clusters of historic houses in Berkeley. (You can see this from three exhibits in the Appeal, Exs. H-1, H-2, & H-3).

ZAB staff approved the maximum allowable height of 35 feet, yet portions of the house are higher than. The house sits on a new artificially raised plinth, as much as 20’ tall, that the owners intend to build. In fact, the house is over 55 feet high in parts when measured from the current grade. This is a whopping house, a huge new structure, that will affect the look of this part Berkeley for all residents, not just its neighbors. It makes no sense that it could be approved without ZAB accurately describing and analyzing the break in the character of the neighborhood and allowing fair comment and discussion.

Perhaps most inexplicably of all, faced with a mandatory story-pole requirement of the hill section (the applicable regulation reads, under Story Poles: “Required for new buildings and stories in the “H” District, or as determined necessary by the project planner” – a phrasing that only makes sense if poles are mandatory in the hill district and discretionary in other areas), staff exempted the house from that mandatory requirement. It is my understanding that the ZAB often requires story poles even on relatively small additions on homes. It is inexplicable that ZAB would not require poles on a huge new building, one far larger than its neighbors or almost any house in Berkeley, in one of the most historic districts in the city. Even were it true that the requirement is discretionary in the hill district, this house will present the most extreme change possible in the area. If any house should have to put up story poles, it is this house.

The procedural problems with this project are just as severe. In my understanding, ordinarily when neighbors express concerns about a house, ZAB routinely continues the hearing to allow the parties to attempt to work things out. This time, a few immediately bordering neighbors wrote letters of support, but 28 neighbors wrote letters of concern and opposition. Yet the opposing letters were not presented to the Board until the day it had to vote on the application, and they were ignored. Coupling that procedural problem with the substantive errors in the report, there is every appearance of a double standard for this particular project. It is being pushed through regardless of neighborhood concern in a way that would not happen with the average homeowner applying to build or modify his or her house.

I want to stress that this is not just a Rose-Street-area concern. The fair and equal application of zoning regulations are a major part of the quality of life for all of us in  Berkeley. If relatively small changes in houses receive detailed scrutiny, as they often do, but the largest house built in decades, one of the largest houses ever built in Berkeley, is rubberstamped without allowing meaningful citizen participation, it would be a sign that the zoning board is not ruling even-handedly on applications that come before it.

This issue is of great concern to many, like me, who live in other parts of the city. The concern will multiply many times over if a house of such dramatically different size and appearance is allowed to be built before having to consider and perhaps incorporate real neighborhood concerns, and if this tall a house can be built in the hill district, near so many historic houses, without even requiring story poles so that everyone can see the effect on the landscape and then comment. Rejecting the appeal would send the message that Berkeley has no effective zoning regulation, or that it has regulations but they only apply to some Berkeley residents, and not others.

To write frankly, it is also a great concern that after ZAB disregarded the large group of letters from concerned neighbors, the city council is now restricting discussion– in a matter that involves fundamental policy questions about the zoning review process, neighbors’ rights, and historic neighborhoods –by allowing only seven minutes of presentation per side on this matter. As a practical matter, this means that the ordinary citizen like me who is gravely worried about the failure of the review process will have no voice in the appropriate public forum.

I urge the council, first, to grant the appeal and reject the thoroughly flawed ZAB report.

Second, because it is hard to see how the ZAB staff could act objectively on the application given the errors in their existing report, I urge the council to require the homeowner to consult with neighbors, but then to itself hold a hearing on this application. At that hearing, the council should allow much broader comment and consider the legitimate concerns of Berkeley residents before taking final action on this matter.


Sincerely,

Your browser may not support display of this image.

John McArthur

…………………………………………

Click here to see a letter and supporting documentation from Stephen Twigg in a PDF format.

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Dear Council Member Wengraf,

I write as a constituent of yours and someone concerned with environmental and historic preservation in Berkeley.  I’m a member of the Hillside Club and I admire enormously the efforts of its women founders to engender respect for Berkeley’s natural beauty and to preserve the hills from inappropriate building, street layout, tree-cutting, and other destruction so often wreaked by thoughtless development. The natural beauty of the hills, such an important value in our city, was preserved from the sort of blanket development that has devalued large areas of our neighboring towns. As you no doubt know, the Hillside Club was founded in 1898 to “protect the hills of Berkeley from unsightly grading and the building of unsuitable and disfiguring houses.”

Which brings me to my concerns with what seems an inadequately reviewed proposal to demolish an existing home of 2500 square feet at 2707 Rose Street to build a nearly 10,000 square foot building on this very narrow block, the house and 10-car garage requiring, as I understand it, zoning waivers for both height and setback from the street.

There was less-than-successful communication with the neighborhood, some neighbors only finding out just a few days before the 1/28 Zoning Board meeting about the very large scale of the project.  There were no story poles placed on the site to give people an idea of the size of the project.  I’m concerned about what trees would be cut down to allow for construction of such a large structure.  Older trees absorb much more carbon than new trees, so taking down old ones should be avoided (as should demolition) if the city is aiming to be environmentally responsible.

Berkeley city government wishes to present our city as respectful of the environment and committed to reducing energy use and automobile traffic, and to slowing global warming. Thus for the Zoning Adjustment Board slip through with evidently little serious examination a proposal to build a greatly out-of-scale building in a neighborhood of relatively small houses,

on a hillside adjacent to an earthquake fault and in a potential slide area seems, at the least, irresponsible. The only apparent explanation is that the prospective owner is very wealthy.

I would like to think our city employees are capable of better judgment than the ZAB approval of this project without regard to concerns of the neighborhood would seem to imply.  Thus, I urge that the project be remanded to the ZAB for more careful consideration and more even-handed recognition of the concerns of the neighbors and all those of us who want the city to ensure that new building on Berkeley’s hills is done responsibly, with consideration of both the built and the natural context.  Obviously, little heed was paid to these concerns when the ZAB granted their waivers for this huge building.

Thank you.

Charlene M. Woodcock

2355 Virginia Street

Berkeley

cc: city council members

……………………………………………………..

Susan Cerny

860 Keeler Avenue

Berkeley, California  94708

April 16, 2010

Mayor Bates & City Council

2180 Milvia Street

Berkeley, CA 94704

Re: 2707 Rose Street—Appeal of Use Permit #09-10000038

Dear Mayor Bates & members of the City Council:

I  support the appeal of Use Permit #09-10000038, approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board on January 28, 2010. I support the appeal because of historic preservation issues and on errors and omissions in the project application.

Four use permits were issued:

 

  • Use Permit to demolish an existing dwelling unit;
  • Use Permit to construct a dwelling unit;
  • Administrative Use Permit to allow a 35-foot average height limit for a main building (28 feet is the maximum); and
  • Administrative User Permit to reduce front yard setback to 16 feet (20 feet is required).


These types of issues are commonly aired at public hearings because concerned neighbors request more information, but because of the geographic nature of the subject site, not all affected property owners were notified of the proposed project.

Furthermore, the application claims there are no designated historic resources

in the vicinity. In the immediate neighborhood there is a high concentration of historic resources including:

• Greenwood Common, a City of Berkeley Landmark (designated in 1990)

developed by William W. Wurster, with landscape design by Lawrence Halprin

and eight houses designed by important mid-century architects.

• La Loma Park Historic District (designated in 2002), comprising 13 properties,

including two designed by Bernard Maybeck, one by Ernest Coxhead, one by

Henry Gutterson, and one by John Ballantine.

• Rose Walk, a City of Berkeley Landmark (designated in 1975), designed by

Maybeck and lined with houses and duplexes by Henry Gutterson.

The proposed project overlooks Shasta Road, where there are two properties listed on

the State Historic Resources Inventory and rated “appear eligible for the National Register of Historic Places” —one is essentially next door and the other directly across the street.

Even the existing house, proposed for demolition, has historic merit. While the 1917 building permit submitted with the architect’s Structure History report, clearly shows A. Appleton as the Architect of 2707 Rose, the application claims there is no architect of record. As it turns out,  Abraham Appleton (1887–1981) was an important figure in Bay Area architecture. His client, Lucia Dunham, was a well-known mezzo-soprano with a teaching position at the University of California, where she was a collaborator of Prof. Charles L. Seeger, who was also a close-by neighbor on La Loma and Buena Vista. (Seeger’s house, which is still standing was designed by Bernard Maybeck.)

There is so much history and so many cultural connections that today have a physical and tangible presence in this neighborhood the project should have been brought to the attention of the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Yet the City staff update sent to the LPC concerning this project defined it only as a new construction, without mentioning the demolition or the historic context of the neighborhood.

Other issues of concern include the extensive grading, removal of soil, and the reconfiguration of the lot, as well as the scale, massing and color of the proposed house in this historic neighborhood.

The proposed project should be sent back to City staff and to the applicant for

preparation of an accurate and complete application, followed by a new hearing before

the Zoning Adjustments Board, with input from the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Sincerely,

Susan Cerny

Former Chair of the Landmarks Preservation Commission
…………………………..

04.13.10

Mayor and Members of the Berkeley City Council

c/o The City Clerk

2180 Milvia Street, First Floor

Berkeley, California  94704

Re: 2707 Rose St.; Appeal of the ZAB decision of 01/28/10; Use Permit # 09-10000038

Dear Mayor and Councilmembers,

In the last weeks I have met with some of you regarding ZAB’s approval of the project proposed for 2707 Rose Street.  All of you will have met with concerned neighbors prior to the appeal hearing.  While the neighbors in the vicinity have every right to be concerned, I am writing because I believe that this issue represents a problem of city-wide importance.  The process as it has unfolded for this project has been so unlike that endured by other less significant projects that questions regarding preferential treatment, systemic bias and equal treatment under the law must be raised.

As a local architect I must be able to describe and characterize the city’s approvals processes to my clients.  During the past decades I have been able to describe to them a process that, if not quick and if not inexpensive, has been fair and evenly applied.  Berkeley’s process has at its root an assumption that community members should be informed and invited into the process, and that those voices are important.  The process that we have witnessed for 2707 Rose seems to be the opposite of inclusive and fair; in fact it leaves me unable to explain to my clients what treatment they may be able to expect at ZAB.  Does the ease or difficulty of attaining approvals vary if the applicant has a lot of money? if the applicant describes himself as the world’s nicest guy? if the applicant is a philanthropist?  In the case of 2707 Rose it appears that these attributes make approval both quick and certain, justify a very sloppy staff report, obviate the need for any meaningful discussion, and make any community involvement nothing more than a nuisance.

When ZAB heard this item, they had in front of them 28 letters of concern from the neighborhood.  Additionally, ZAB heard polite testimony from concerned neighbors asking for two things 1) a month’s continuance to better understand the proposed project (most had only found out about it less than two weeks prior to the hearing), and 2) the installation of story poles so that the scope of the project, one of the largest houses ever built in Berkeley, could be understood at full scale.  ZAB did not read the letters and summarily dismissed the requests of the concerned neighbors: no continuance, no story poles.  This result was shocking to the neighbors but may be even more shocking to those who are familiar with the city processes. ZAB usually errs on the side of caution and routinely grants continuances so that productive conversations can take place amongst neighbors and project proponents.  ZAB has done so countless times before the 2707 item was considered and has already done so after it.  In the case of 2707 there was no discussion of the project, and no evaluation of the staff report, just

obsequious kow-towing to the prominent applicant and rudeness to the concerned neighbors.  All of this falls well below the minimum standard that every citizen has the right to expect of city boards and commissions.

I have personal experience of a 20 square foot addition  (yes, 20) which received far more staff scrutiny than this project has seen.  Make no mistake about it: this project consists of nearly 10,000 square feet of contiguous built area; even more if you count the massive terrace upon which it sits.  Although the proponents always refer to only the area of the house, obscuring the true size of the project, I feel sure that a builder would charge them for the 3,500 square foot garage as well, so I would suggest that we call a spade a spade.  This will be one of the largest houses ever built in this city and the rubberstamping of its approval with little or no real scrutiny amounts to nothing more than arrogance and sycophancy.  The call for story poles is entirely appropriate; the scale of this structure is completely unlike anything around it; to imagine that lay people might be able to infer something so massive and so different by only consulting a tiny drawing is absolutely unrealistic.

There is no doubt that ZAB’s approval should be vacated; the staff report is riddled with errors and misstatements, and ZAB’s unwillingness to review the staff’s work is truly negligent.  As I understand it, Council has three options: 1) uphold ZAB’s decision (I believe that this would be legally untenable), 2) uphold the appeal, vacate the approval, and remand the item to staff and to ZAB, and 3) uphold the appeal and hold the item over for public hearing at the City Council.  As unattractive as the third option may be, I believe that it offers the only responsible way forward.  Staff and ZAB have shown themselves to be incapable of operating in good faith when it comes to this application; remanding it to ZAB may end up with a process that resembles the norm, but to hope that ZAB would be self-policing and self-correcting is far too much to expect.  Council should seize this opportunity to explore how a city board could act so brazenly and so contrary to their trust, and then Council should implement the changes necessary to re-establish that trust.

It is worth pointing out that the concerned neighbors have not once attempted to dictate an architectural solution; however, I would be unfaithful to my profession if I didn’t offer a critique.  From an architectural point of view, the building is very disappointing. It is an example of the bland and featureless modernism that propagated once the founding principles were eroded.  True modernism is lyrical, artful, forward-thinking, and engages its context (both physical and cultural) in a meaningful way; this building is none of these things.  Charles Keeler and Bernard Maybeck clearly outlined the principles of good hillside building; sadly this building violates every one of them.  I wonder if the owners realize that they will be identified with a banal and awkward building, an energy dinosaur in the era of global warming, a true white elephant exemplary of backward thinking.  The New York Times article that questioned whether such mansions could ever be ‘green’ used 2707 as a negative example; others in the article espoused a trickle-down technology alibi, stating that energy efficiency and green building will of course be pioneered by the rich and will then make its way down to the common folk.  As bizarre as that idea may be, it should be pointed out that 2707 does not measure up as a green building in any way.  Its score of 91 on the Build It Green Checklist sounds great, 91 out of 100 is excellent, right?  Well really it is 91 out of 250 for a score of 36%, a failing grade in any test.  The building avoids the more rigorous LEED certification process, as it would not come close to a high rating.  I wonder if the owners know how much better they could be doing?  Beyond being used as offices for philanthropic work, the building itself could champion admirable values such as sustainability, efficiency, and contextual sensitivity, and could be a beacon for future projects. It could be a game-changer. Instead it just lowers the bar at a very critical time. One might ask why such a monster of a building is being forced on this community. If the proponents built a house half the size (still well in excess of the average house size in the neighborhood) and spent some of the capital saved to create an exemplary zero-net-energy building (and then simply donated the rest of the savings to the underprivileged rather than re-raising that money through wasteful fundraising), then perhaps we would have a win-win-win situation. As it is, we have the intrusion of a baronial estate into a quiet neighborhood, peasants be damned.

As a veteran of many runs through the city approval processes, I can attest that it can be quite a delicate matter to balance the interests and input of all concerned parties.  Badly done, the process easily becomes corrosive and toxic; sometimes applicants and neighbors become soured on each other and on the neighborhood as a whole.  Done well, with open channels of communication and a design team that is responsive and accepting of neighborhood concerns, the process can, and has, led to better projects and closer relationships within the neighborhood.  The 2707 project is a case study in how NOT to address the process.  So far, a sense of entitlement and in-crowd privilege has prevailed, leading to widespread alienation and distrust.  When asked if he would entertain a month’s continuance for the sake of educating the neighborhood about the project, the owner simply stated that such a thing would be “inappropriate”.  One wonders what is appropriate in this case; one would think that when moving into an established neighborhood, and building a very large, ostentatious and intrusive building, it would be appropriate to reach out and inform the neighbors as much as possible, to hear their concerns and take them to heart.  After all, these people will be one’s neighbors for a long time.  Apparently what is thought to be appropriate here is to manipulate the system and ignore any concerns but one’s own.

There is no doubt that the building would be improved through a more community-based process. A building this big and so willfully out of context with its architectural environment will effect that community negatively for generations. The community should have something to say about it; once the story poles are erected I’m sure that the already significant level of concern will increase, and rightfully so. It is too bad that it will take council action for the applicants to supply their future neighbors with the information that they have been asking for during the past few months. If the project is remanded to ZAB, the improvement of the building will take care of itself IF AND ONLY IF ZAB affords the concerned neighbors equal treatment, AND if ZAB knows that it is under close scrutiny from here on out.  Certainly concise and pointed council instructions would be a crucial part of any remand.

I look forward to looking back on this sad set of events as an aberration that allowed the city to recalibrate one of its most important boards and re-establish the kind of caring community-based process that represents the city so well.

Sincerely,

Gary Earl Parsons, AIA

Born in Berkeley, UCB ’76 and ‘82

Berkeley businessman since 1987

………………………………………………..

I want to weigh in on the proposal to tear down the beautiful (albeit
dilapidated) house at 2707 Rose Street and build a 6478 square foot
single family home with a 3,394 square foot, 10-car garage on Rose
Street overlooking Shasta Road.

This is a most inappropriate building for this neighborhood that I could possibly imagine, and I wish to go on record as opposing it.

I am also concerned about the violations to legal process that the ZAB seems to have exercised in order to push this design through the City. The violations of due process have been delineated by others in this effort, so I will not repeat them here. Suffice it to say something seems a little bit fishy and it appears shortcuts were taken.

I am concerned about the protracted noise of construction, potential traffic congestion on Shasta Road, potential for soil erosion, and the change of scenery that this house would produce on that corner of Shasta road which is just down the street from my house. Although property values might be increased by the existence of this new house, I suspect that the reverse would be true. This neighborhood has a number of historically-significant homes in it.

I believe in property owners’ rights to develop their land as they wish, within reason. I am on record as having written a letter of support to David Shapiro and his wife Diane to build their very large house behind my house, on Northgatr. And I myself own an empty lot next to my house at 2692 Shasta Rd. So, I am not opposed to new building, nor do I want to support onerous restriction. However, new construction has to be within reason, fitting into the existing neighborhood appropriately.

Thank you.

Bob

Bob Cowart
2692 Shasta Rd
Bob@cowart.com
510-540-6667
www.cowart.com
……………………………………………………………………

Robert and Gertrude Allen

Berkeley, CA 94708

COPY

March 30, 2010

Councilmember Susan Wengraf

Dear Susan:

We are writing to you about the proposed house at 2707 Rose Street.  I hope that the City Council will send the proposal back to the Planning staff and ZAB for further review.  The neighbors were not properly informed of the proposal.  While I realize that design considerations are pretty much outside of the permit process, I would like to call your attention to a strange (we believe) finding by the staff that “No locally designated properties exist in the vicinity.”  In fact, the house immediately adjacent to the property and the one adjacent to that were both designed by Warren Callister, an architect of some renown.  In addition, the Gregory house designed by John Galen Howard is within a block, as is Greenwood Common, a landmarked area.

The point of some concerned neighbors is not to stop the project, but to make sure that it is properly reviewed.  Other neighbors are addressing issues in which we feel that the planning staff was remiss.

I’ll take this opportunity to mention that we very much appreciate your monthly e-mail newsletters.  They keep us well informed.

Sincerely,

Bob and Gert

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  • Porcelina Grout

    Oh for Heaven’s sake, please! Just let Mr. Kapor build his house!
    We all have our very pretty houses in Berkeley, some of them, like mine, beautified by Mr. Gary Parsons himself. Now please, let’s all find something better to do than grousing about someone else’s house. May I suggest turning our focus toward some of the actual eyesores in town rather than whining over a house that most of us will most likely never see. Live and let live, I say.

  • Cliff Magnes

    As a frequent commenter on these invaluable articles, my first comment has to be: Thank you, Berkeleyside, thank you Tracey Taylor. This story was first covered on this site, and has been picked up by the local and national press, from the Chronicle to the New York Times.

    I think this has been a critical forum for both the supporters of this project and those who oppose it to put their cases before the public, and to allow a continuing discussion, debate, and rebuttal about this turning point in our community.

    I am against this project for most, if not all, of the reasons that are so well articulated by those who have taken the time to write these letters, but mostly for the reasons that have been so well researched and documented in the appeal that will come before the city council on April 27th.

    Since I have commented at length on my reasons in my replies to previous articles, I will wait until more people comment to be more specific about why this project is so critically important to the future of our neighborhood.

  • Cliff Magnes

    Ms. Grout,

    I don’t believe Mr. Kapor just wants to build a “house.” He wants to tear down the real house that was built on that lot when this neighborhood was developing in the teens and twenties, and build a 10,000 square foot, five story tall conference center with a ten car garage that looks like an office building and will feel like a Wal-Mart. To do that, he has to misrepresent and lie about it (or rely on his minions to do it for him), and hope no one notices.

    I think what the neighbors had in mind is exactly what you are suggesting: All this “grousing about someone else’s house” is focusing on this monstrosity before it becomes just another hideous eyesore for people to whine about–after the fact–when nothing can be done about it.

    I believe most of those who are opposing this project do not fall into the category of people who will never see this “house.” As the letters attest, they will be profoundly impacted. If this house gets built as it is currently proposed, you will see why there was so much opposition. When something could have been done about it.

  • Jana Olson

    Thank you, Porcelina, I feel the same way. I am one of the affected neighbors, and I am astounded and dismayed that one family’s proposed home should be drawing so much attention and so much anger from so many people. I believe that people should be allowed to build the “house of their dreams” on their own property, even if it may not be the house that other people would choose to build for themselves. We have, in this City, certain zoning guidelines which are indeed being followed in this case, regardless of the criticisms of the opponenents. There are no rules in Berkeley about: design of the house, style of the house, color, or size except for the percentage of lot coverage. There also are no rules about how many people you can invite to dinner, or how many parties you are allowed to have per year. I find all this public airing of someone’s private life really unpleasant, and I feel for an applicant who has to put up with the animosity expressed in many of these letters. I canot imagine what it must be like. I am writing this under my own name even though that does not seem to be the popular thing to do on this blog. Why is that? I would very much like to know who “Cliff Magnes” is and what his connection is to my neighborhood. Any information “Cliff” himself would like to give or that anyone else would like to give would be appreciated.

  • Tizzielish

    Jana Olson and Porcelina Grout . . . Berkeley is a community. A person’s home is, in deed, their private business but when anyone’s private choices impacts the community, it becomes community business.

    I don’t care very much what kind of house Mr. Kapor and his wife want to build, or the size of it . . . I care about open, transparent, equitable government. I do not believe a society is sustainable when rich people are given special privilege and consideration just because they are rich.

    Porcelina and Jana. . . are you each rich? I think perhaps you are, which might explain why you take a position that seems to favor giving privileges to rich people just because they are rich. We do not, not yet, live in a society in which the rich have more rights. . . that would be a return to a system of royalty. We live in a society with remnants of democracy.

    Mitch Kapor got his building permit because he is fabulously rich. That is not right. The city must stop this kind of sycophantic kowtowing to the rich.

    The citizens of Berkeley, as a collective, get to decide what belongs in a residential neighborhood, not Mr. Kapor and his hired spokepeople. The citizens of Berkeley get to decide if office buildings and conference facilities will be built in residential neighborhoods, not Mr. Kapor and his money.

    The problem with Mr. Kapor’s homebuilding is not the design of the building. . . the problems are with the process, which should be a transparent public process that is the same for all. Mr. Kapor is not entitled to special exceptions just because he is rich. I now many in this society kowtow to wealth and the power wealth can bestow . . . but that is not, um, how this society is supposed to work.

    Process, transparency matters. Fair, transparent city planning boards are much more important than Mr. Kapor’s wealth

  • lifelongberkeleyan

    Dear Mr. Kapor

    Mr. Kapor, you could do no greater good in Berkeley than to build your house precisely as the law allows. And to assure those maliciously seeking to deny your rights pay a costly penalty for their harassment.

    Berkeley’s self imagined defenders and the City that enables them are ripe for suing. These voices, masquerading as The People, have been allowed to fester simply because no individual has had the resources to expose them.

    That hilarious whiff of ‘Animal Farm’ angst in their postings (Pitching a battle of the rich versus the righteous…well…less rich?) shows how deeply unconscious their imagined entitlements and self righteousness have become.

    We desperately need a reset to legal reality. That would be the answered prayer of many who’ve given up their legal rights in order to build and live in Berkeley.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Dear Mr. lifelongberkeleyan,

    Some commentators do over-reach, I agree, when they assert that Mr. Kapor’s approval happened “because he is rich.” It is too glib and unsubstantiated a conclusion. Like the old saying goes: never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity. The saying doesn’t mean that the charge of malice is automatically wrong. It merely gives the rule of thumb that unless malice is unambiguously present, there is little good to come of charging it.

    You can not so easily dismiss, though, the substantial arguments that the permits were granted by a legally defective process. It is far from clear that the proposed landscaping and structure are, in fact, what the “law allows”.

    I find the legal reality of property ownership in this country – in pretty much all jurisdictions – to be quite interesting and also so often badly misunderstood:

    People so often think “Ah. I bought this. This land is now mine and I can do with it as I please. Same for this building.” It is more or less never actually like that.

    Where there are property taxes, real estate “ownership” is fundamentally a lease from the controlling jurisdiction. Fully paid owners enjoy strong eviction protections, of course, but they are still basically tenants of a public civic authority. Since it is the public at large that is the ultimate owner, they get some say about how land and structures may, must, or must not be altered. (What is at issue in the case of the Rose St. property is whether or not the public’s authority was properly recognized in the approval process.)

    As an example of a legitimate public interest in this case, consider the apparently plausible situation in which the Kapor family regularly hosts events with an unusually large number of guests. Such a circumstance can effect the public infrastructure (e.g., wear and tear on the road and sewage systems). It can effect public safety and emergency planning, particularly for a structure so close to a fault line. To the extent such events become disruptive to peace and quiet, and to the extent the appearance of the structure spoils the look of the area, surrounding property values may be negatively impacted which would tax revenues and be inequitable to neighbors who bought in a neighborhood valued for its quiet and its appearance.

    Beyond that, real estate ownership has a long tradition of curtailment and limitation in courts of equity that follow Common Law tradition. For example, if a stream passes from my yard to yours I am not normally free to dam it up at the property line so that I can have a lake and divert the run-off to my well. Similarly, if I have a dam, I’m not free to breech it and flood your back yard. The landscaping concerns alone, of the Rose St. project raise questions about similar issues.

    It’s fine if what you really want to do here is flame about “that hilarious whiff of ‘Animal Farm’ angst” and give forth your best Charlie Brown style “pfffffffft”. But there are two things you ought to think over:

    First, consider how you aren’t being terribly fact-based vis-a-vis property rights or the conduct of this particular approval process.

    Second, consider what that analogy to ‘Animal Farm’ implies and says about you vis-a-vis the “class warfare” you decry. Are we to understand that “the rich” are the farmers and those objecting to the project are the uppity chattel? Or, perhaps you are comparing the project’s supporters to the pigs and the objectors to the less-equal-than-some members of society? As a “life long berkeleyan” you should stick with tradition, instead. If you want ridicule people for suggesting that the Kapor family’s wealth unduly influenced the process, you should just call them socialists or communists.

  • Cliff Magnes

    Ms. Olson,

    I am one of your neighbors. I guess you haven’t taken the time to get to know me, but I know you and Roger and all your chickens. I think I understand your connection to my neighborhood, and I think we both have a right to our own opinions about this proposed structure. I’m against it, you’re for it, we disagree–but I still want to be a good neighbor.

    I think it is the substance of the arguments made by the proponents and opponents of this “house” that is important, not the personalities. I have been pretty clear about my objections, and with respect, I wonder why you are so supportive of this monstrosity. In your posting, you defended the rights of people to “build the house of their dreams.”

    It seems to me that you are one of the people who has benefited the most from the efforts of the greater community to prevent development on the two lots that abut your own property, so I find your support of this project most perplexing. Not that you don’t have a right to support it, you do, but don’t forget that the Codornices Foundation stopped two people from “building the houses of their dreams” on those lots. Lest you think I am being critical, I am not. The Codornices Foundation was a visionary group of neighbors who tried to preserve something special for the community. What ever happened to that group?

    Now times have changed. The very same hillside and watershed that the Codornices Foundation saved four decades ago, you want to see developed. Try this experiment: Visualize the structure in the picture above, but with its bulk reduced by 75% to represent the average size of a house in our neighborhood … and picture TWO of them out your west windows, looming over the canyon, in the lots that have been protected from development. Now imagine the actual 10,000 square foot structure looming over your own house. If this does get buit as planned, I think that down the years, people may wonder whether that was the box that your house came in.

    I urge everyone to stand on Shasta in that sylvan glade that was preserved and protected by and for the community and imagine the two houses I have just described blocking Ms. Olson’s view. Stand near the quatrefoil embedded in river stones and imagine two big ugly boxes blocking your view across the creek, and blocking views from Tamalpais up to Shasta. Now turn around and look up at the house at 2707 Rose, which blends in so well with its environment that it is barely noticeable, and imagine it squashed under a three story office building on top of a two story concrete base.

    The Kapors chose to take you and his immediate neighbors into his confidence, and enlist your aid in his neighborhood changing effort, but they chose to keep it a secret from the rest of us. You and the other three households, in turn, did not choose to take any of us into your confidence either, and the “leadership” of the Codornices Foundation did not even notify the membership that this proposal had been planned in secret for a year. I guess you think of it as your land, with the rest of the members just paying the taxes and maintenance fees, with no say in the noble vision of the Codornices Foundation.

    You are partially right that there are no rules about design review, just the ones in the general plan (all violated in letter and spirit), but the zoning guidelines and rules which you allude to are NOT being followed. Ordinances are being violated, obvious contradictions and errors in both the plan and the process are being overlooked, and I wonder if you really understand what a profound impact this will have on your own property, and the rest of our neighborhood.

    There are rules about how much of your home you can use for business purposes, and this is exactly the issue that the opponents have raised. The use of a building is exactly what zoning regulations are designed to address, and trying to cover Mr. Kapor’s public faux pas about how much of his “house” will be used for foundation work as an argument about how many people can be invited to how many dinner parties is disingenuous.

    If this structure is built as proposed, the neighborhood as we know it will have lost something that it will never get back. Even you may come to regret your support, but maybe not. Either way, by then it will be too late. Make no mistake, this is a turning point for our neighborhood. A watershed event, in more ways than one.

  • Cliff Magnes

    lifelongberkeleyan,

    I could not agree more with your first sentence: Mr. Kapor could do no greater good in Berkeley than to build his house precisely as the law allows. I think that’s what a lot of the hubbub is about, it’s about how some people get around the laws that everyone else must observe.

    I also agree that the Animal Farm references are pretty hilarious. I heartily agree that we desperately need a reset to legal reality, which is to say a return to legal reality. We need to protect those who have worked so hard over the years to abide by the rules that have made our neighborhood so special, and have protected it from being exploited.

    Thank you for your comments. No one should have to give up their legal rights to build and live in Berkeley.

  • lifelongberkeleyan

    Mr. Magnes,

    While I appreciate the cordiality of your response, I fear we have different ideas about what constitutes the “law” in this instance.

    In urging Mr. Kapor to “…build his house precisely as the law allows.” I implore him to use his substantial resources in the courts to vigorously test the rats nest of restrictions on private property which have been concocted here in the name of ecological and/or historic preservation.

  • Cliff Magnes

    lifelongberkeleyan,

    I don’t fear our different ideas about the what constitutes the “law” in this instance, I welcome the opportunity to discuss them.

    I chose to interpret your first sentence as urging Mr. Kapor to comply with the zoning requirements of the H-1 district. I wasn’t so much thinking about the ecological and/or historic preservation issues which you allude to (that may be a good separate conversation), I was just thinking about the basic requirements of the zoning in this neighborhood and on his property.

    For instance, if Mr. Kapor can apply for a permit to build a two story house when he’s really building a three story house, why not four? Why not five? Why not Rincon Tower on Rose? Think of the views! Think of the return on investment! Why not combine his business and home together in some post modern shoe box and just call it an unusually large home?

    The reason that we have zoning restrictions is to PROTECT people’s rights, not to interfere with them. This neighborhood is over 100 years old, and a lot of forward thinking people put a lot of thought into how the community should be developed. Much of that thought was codified into the zoning requirements.

    That is part of the reason this neighborhood is so desirable, and also why it is so economically diverse. The zoning prevents developers and newcomers from tearing down all the housing that would prevent all but the rich and super rich from living up here.

    If you want to move into a house that was legally built, no one can stop you, nor should they be able to. But if you want to make a substantial change to your house (and I would call tearing it down and building another one four times as big a substantial change), then you may be changing the neighborhood in such a way that it interferes with your neighbors rights to the neighborhood they built. The more substantial the change you are proposing, the higher the bar should be for approving that change.

    Does that prevent you from making repairs to your home? No, it does not. But it does put some oversight on those who want to make substantial changes to their homes, or to tear them down and build new ones. In concept, I find nothing wrong with this idea. In practice, I think we have two sets of rules. One that applies to applicants like Mr. Kapor, and another that applies to the rest of us.

    We will see what the city council has to say about this. Speaking of which, where is our own city council member in all of this controversy?

    By the way, I am also a life long Berkeleyean.

  • lifelongberkeleyan

    The City of Berkeley Planning Staff and the ZAB have approved Mr. Kapors plans as being in compliance with the relevant requirements. Unless the staff recants, opposition must prove collusion. Which actionable offense is falsely accusing some one of collusion in this circumstance? Is it libel or slander?

    And yet opposition continues. For the vast majority of applicants the cost of litigation is prohibitive, and so they capitulate. But Mr. Kapor is in the fortunate position of being able to remind Berkeley of a a very important lesson: Consensus is not law. No matter how many little signs are waved at city council meetings, justice operates outside the range of wishful thinking. And not everyone believes property rights are defined by local whim.

    Mr. Kapor has the means to achieve a successful, or if necessary, a Supreme result.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    lifelongberkeleyan,

    You write: “Unless the staff recants, opposition must prove collusion. Which actionable offense is falsely accusing some one of collusion in this circumstance? Is it libel or slander?

    Oh, please.

    First, your supposition that “opposition must prove collusion” is false. Should the City not reverse its course and a legal action ensue, the plaintiffs would merely have to show a substantially defective and damaging application of the zoning ordinances. Showing collusion – such as the payment of a bribe or an agreement to keep effected neighbors in the dark – would be one way of showing such a defect however nobody (I’ve seen) has *quite* alleged that kind of wrong doing. Simply showing that the zoning ordinances were incorrectly applied – even if through an innocent mistake – is sufficient if the result is harm or the likelihood of harm.

    The situation of this approval makes for a somewhat interesting case. It appears to me that what is in dispute are a number of key factual questions. Examples include: Was the public notification requirement met? Is the building two stories or three? Is the intended or likely use of the structure a permitted use? Were the historic preservation requirements adequately met? And so forth.
    In the absence of any charges of collusion, those are the kinds of factual questions a court would have to consider when deciding whether or not to issue a temporary or permanent injunction.

    Second, while this is of course not legal advice and I am not a lawyer, my understanding is that California defines libel as defamation in writing, slander as definition in speech. The detailed treatment of the two forms of defamation differ but they are both unified under an umbrella of defamation. So you are suggesting that opponents might be opening themselves up to a defamation suit.

    I don’t know about you but the closest I’ve seen to defamation are statements to the effect that “Mr. Kapor won approval because he is rich,” “Mr. Kapor and perhaps some neighbors kept the project secret from other neighbors until the last minute,” and “My. Kapor’s application contradicts his other public statements regarding the intended use of the building.” Let’s examine these:

    “[…] because he is rich,” is a cynical statement, surely. It does not allege anything particularly defamatory about any particular person. It is clearly a statement of opinion. It is hardly likely to cause sufficient harm to any person to result in substantial damages.

    “[…] kept the project secret […]” is more interesting. Suppose it is found that the notification process was woefully inadequate except among a select few supporters of the project. That would arguably be enough to show that the statement is true and fair game, not defamation. Suppose it were found that no reasonable person could conclude that the notification process was inadequate: then you *might* have a defamation case there but at best a quite weak one (especially given Mr. Kapor’s status as a public figure). Damages, in any event, would be hard to establish.

    “[…] contradicts his other public statements […],” whether or not the charge is ultimately found to be factual, is at least a reasonable opinion and surmise from published accounts of Mr. Kapor’s statements and of the nature of the permit granted.

    All three of these kinds of statements are being made in the context of a raucous public debate where, by in large, it is very clear that they are statements of personal opinion based fairly reasonably on the facts in evidence. They are not obviously correct statements. They are not the only possible opinions. But they are unsurprising and reasonable summaries of the defects that some perceive in the zoning process in this case.

    Raising the “libel or slander” bogeyman is fairly ridiculous.

    You write: “Consensus is not law. No matter how many little signs are waved at city council meetings, justice operates outside the range of wishful thinking. And not everyone believes property rights are defined by local whim.”

    I suspect that the mere news of your approach strikes fear deep into the hearts of straw-men everywhere.

    What “the opposition” has charged here is that the process was applied in a defective manner, in several substantial ways. This has nothing to do with “local whim”.

    We’ve already seen here, in past articles on Berkeleyside, substantial disagreement between architecture experts as to the proper treatment of this plan. For example, is it (in law) a two story or a three story structure? Another example: we’ve seen decent arguments on both sides of the question of whether or not the notification process was adequate. I am not sure which side of these questions is right but I’ve seen enough evidence that I’m sure the dispute is not frivolous.

    Is your notion of “property rights” such that a property owner is privileged to define what is or is not true?

    If you have any coherent reason to believe in particular answers to the factual questions in dispute then, by all means, make your case. Merely reiterating that you think the opposition resembles frivolous protesters who win by attrition is not much of an argument, though.

    Finally, you write: “Mr. Kapor has the means to achieve a successful, or if necessary, a Supreme result.”

    You seem to be saying to the opponents of the approval: “Let’s you and him fight.” How noble of you.

    Do I correctly infer from your pseudonym and your earlier comments that you are one of those many in Berkeley still smarting from the late 1960s and the decade of the 1970s? Who regards the political changes that took place locally during that period a serious mistake? Who perceives contemporary Berkeley politics through a polarizing filter that places the sober, normal citizenry on one side and the hoi poloi of crazy protest-everything beatniks on the other side?

    Perhaps you are or perhaps you are not. I don’t want to make this too personal. You do come across that way to me and I think it’s worth mentioning because it is so incredibly common in Berkeley. On both sides.

    I see it all the time because, in casual conversation, I tend to easily pass as a person who is assumed to agree with the political opinions of whoever is speaking. So I’ve heard a lot of people saying “Oh, those idiot protestors with their little signs and the shouting and all the stick-it-to-the-man stuff…. you know what I mean?” and a lot of people saying “Oh, those greedy power brokers with their back-room deals and their corrupt politicians and their stick-it-to-the-little-guy stuff…. you know what I mean?” In both cases, yeah, “I know what you mean… but …”.

    Nearly every damn issue gets polarized along the lines of that divide and you know what? It doesn’t do a damn bit of good for anyone on either side. Both sides are just plain wrong. The whole “debate” is long past its expiration date. It may have started as an honest reaction to legitimate disputes (e.g., rent control) but it’s wound up as a loose cannon rallying point for any and every stupid issue. As Country Joe put it: “Let’s hear it for the good guys! [yaaaaay] Let’s hear it for the bad guys! [boooooo!].”

    In place of civil debate, we wind up (for decades now) with taunting across that divide. Why oppose the downtown plan? Because it’s entirely the product of greedy developers with too much political influence. Why support it? Because the opponents are a bunch of dirty hippies. How about BRT? Nasty enemies of Telegraph street life line up to the right. Punks and the say-no-to-everything crowd, to the left.

    If there’s one thing that far too many people in Berkeley agree about, from all sides of the political debate, it’s that there’s no reason to let facts or thoughtful analysis get in the way of any debate that can be successfully buried under innuendo and political stereotyping based in distorted memories of the 1970s.

    You lived here all your life, lifelongberkleyan? I’ve only been here off and on for about 20 years and, I gotta say, interesting little town you’ve got here. It never ceases to amaze me how with that style of political discourse, and so little wealth in the City, Berkeley nevertheless manages to keep the streets well paved, the sewers in good condition, the retail corridors humming, the schools in such enviably good condition, the fire stations open and adequately staffed, the crime level comparable to Mayberry RFD, the economic opportunities abundant, and …. Oh. Sorry. Sorry. I was thinking of someplace else.

  • lifelongberkeleyan

    Has anyone ever encountered someone so deeply in love with the sound of their own keyboard?

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    lifelongberkeleyan,

    No, I think it’s mainly just you and I.

  • Clif Magnes

    I have been giving this matter considerable thought over the weekend. During all of this discussion, I have tried to keep an open mind, and to respect the opinions of others. I now see that the proponents of this project have a lot of good points. I have come to the conclusion, finally, that contrary to my earlier stands, this project may not be so bad for the neighborhood. In fact, if the City Council approves the ZAB’s decision tomorrow night, the project can move forward, and this seemingly endless discussion can cease. It would give all of us much needed rest, and return tranquility to our (normally) bucolic neighborhood. I realize now how divisive filing this appeal has been, and I am truly sorry for my part in it. I would like to wholeheartedly throw my support behind Mitch Kapor’s house, and I apologize for any bad feelings I have caused.

    Update from Berkeleyside editors: this comment was from a person pretending to be Cliff Magnes. We haven’t deleted it entirely, but have striked through the text so you can see what the fuss was about and understand that it’s a hoax.

  • TN

    Clif Magnes:

    You seem to be an exceptional person. This is the first time ever in a public forum in Berkeley that I have seen someone openly admit to being persuaded to change their strongly held opinion based on facts and the opinions of others.

    I have no stake in this particular issue and have no opinion on it.

    But I just wanted to make note of this all too rare event in Berkeley. We need more of this from everyone on a lot of issues.

  • Cliff Magnis

    Hi neighbors,

    I just thought I’d try to sign in as a previous poster, slightly change the spelling of my name, and see if I too could shift the debate on this issue. NOT.

    C’mon folks, c’mon Berkeleyside! Perhaps the editor, who IS able to see the emails of all posters, might try to write to the One-F Clif who clearly is an imposter (WHY would it be soooo important to the Rose Street applicant to fake-shift this debate? The real issues getting too tough, there, big guys), or perhaps the editor could write to the original Cliff, for clarification, before posting a statement about this notable “switching sides.”

    The internet has created a brand new world for media outlets, as I’m sure Mr. Kapor knows more fully than most of us.

    Signed,
    NOT “Cliff Magnis”
    NOT “Clif Magnes”
    NOT the original “Cliff Magnes”
    Someone else, just trying to point out the bleeding obvious

  • Pingback: Mitch Kapor’s Berkeley home: Countdown to appeal – Berkeleyside()

  • The Real Cliff Magnes

    TN:

    Sorry to disappoint you, but that was someone pretending to be me (Clif Magnes, not Cliff Magnes). I like you sentiment so much that I almost wish I had been persuaded by a vigorous debate based on facts and the considered opinions of others … but not on this issue. No way. My opinion has evelved, but it hasn’t changed as the imposter suggested.

    I’m not sure if I should be flattered to be used as a false avatar for propaganda purposes, or insulted to find yet another example of how hard the proponents are working to misrepresent this project. Mostly I’m amused by the chutzpah of the deceit ;-]

    Here I am just trying make a few points for people to consider about the pros and cons (mostly the cons) of this Nightmare on Rose Street, and someone tries to pretend to be me–with a last minute change of heart and mind, throwing my (wholehearted) support behind Mitch Kapor, and apologizing for “my part in it” and for “any bad feelings caused.” FOTFLOL!

    We all got punked, but since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I think I’ll just take some small satisfaction from the idea that someone would attempt to use whatever modicum of credibility I have earned through my “open minded respect for the opinions of others” to mislead my neighbors into thinking that I was drinking the same Kool-Aid as the proponents.

    For the record, I (the real Cliff Magnes) remain as firmly opposed to this project as ever. If the proponents of this project have any good points, I have yet to hear them. I am not alone in successfully refuting and rebutting many of the misleading assertions by the Kapors and their highly paid lobbyists.

    If I have come to any conclusion, it is that this project will be even worse for the neighborhood than I first imagined. My original criticism was of the architecture and aesthetics, but there is so much that is abhorrent about this monstrosity, and the process that has brought us to this point, that the lack of imagination embodied in this big ugly box seems like the least of its many flaws.

    Not so bad for the neighborhood? Make no mistake, it’s not just that this building would literally pave the way for other mega-”houses”, it would change the character of this entire neighborhood. This will be Berkeley’s unique answer to the McMansioning of the hills.

    That sound you hear in the distance isn’t the sound of approaching bulldozers, it’s the sound of Berkeley’s great architects and the founders of the Hillside Club spinning in their graves!

    If the City Council ignores the legitimate complaints of the neighbors, and the points raised in their appeal as blithely as the ZAB did, I guarantee that the much needed rest we all need will be temporary, and tranquility will NEVER return to our “(normally) bucolic” neighborhood (and it’s getting less and less “bucolic” with every inappropriate project like this).

    Had I posted my reply to lifelongberkelyan last night, no one would have been able to pretend they were me earlier today, but there was a lull in the conversation, I was trying not to overpost, so I thought I would sleep on it. Now I will post that reply.

  • The Real Cliff Magnes

    lifelongberkelyan,

    Unless the staff recants, opposition must prove collusion?

    Setting aside the fact that staff has “recanted” (read it for yourself in their reply to the appeal), wouldn’t it be easier to just prove that the findings by the City of Berkeley Planning Staff and the ZAB are incorrect? Neither libel or slander would apply to such proof, since truth is the best defense against both.

    On the other hand, I am compelled once again to agree with your statement that “no matter how many little signs are waved at city council meetings, justice operates outside the range of wishful thinking. And not everyone believes property rights are defined by local whim.” I also agree that “Mr. Kapor is in the fortunate position of being able to remind Berkeley of a very important lesson …”

    We probably disagree about what that very important lesson will be, but that’s what makes being a life long Berkeleyan interesting.

    Staff (or their designees) have chosen what issues to respond to, how to respond to those issues, and they have chosen their words very carefully. They have also chosen how seriously to take the appeal, and the neighbors who are opposed to this project.

    Now it’s the council’s turn. We will see how seriously they take the arguments made by both sides in this debate by what kind of discussion ensues at the council meeting Tuesday night, and what action they choose to take. The cynics say it’s going to be predictable, I’m going put my money on … interesting.

  • lifelongberkeleyan

    Mr, Magnes

    The council meetings are always entertaining, but it’s the court battle that may follow I’d find truly interesting. Hopefully producing a verdict which would eviscerate the arbitrary and capricious zoning policies Berkeley’s amateur historians and environmentalists have lavished upon us.

  • Cliff Magnes

    lifelongberkeleyan:

    I actually found the council meeting … interesting, but not so entertaining. I don’t envy any of the council members; I think there was a consensus by the council that meetings like that are among their least favorite duties.

    I’m not sure any court battle would resolve any complaints on either side of the zoning debate, but just out of curiosity, what do you see as the best or most egregious examples of the “arbitrary and capricious zoning polices” that the City of Berkeley (and the amateur historians and environmentalists) have enacted?

    I see zoning as a way of protecting a community, but if it’s arbitrary and capricious, that’s not good, either. Ultimately, there must be a rational basis for zoning policy. The whole point of zoning is to direct the way a community develops and to insure that people have a right to know what they can expect in the future if they decide to buy into an area zoned in a certain way.

    Just my humble opinion.