Three stories this week evoked a lot of discussion about the state of Berkeley. One was a map outlining the gap between Berkeley’s gap between rich and poor, one detailed new library policies that might significantly affect the homeless, and the other was an Opininator piece by Charles Siegel on widening the sidewalks on the south side of Bancroft Avenue. The map story generated many comments, but not necessarily what might have been expected. There was little outrage that some households – particularly in the hills – had a much higher income than those in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Instead, people seemed proud of the gulf because it showed the economic diversity of the city, which makes Berkeley an interesting place to live.
The “Ask Berkeleyside,” story about whether it is getting harder to be homeless since the defeat of Measure S, the proposal to ban sitting on sidewalks in commercial districts, also prompted a lot of commentary. Some people were outraged at the library’s new policy restricting the amount of stuff people could bring inside. They pointed out how hard it is to keep possessions safe when one has no fixed abode. Others thought that the public library is not a homeless shelter but serves all of the residents of Berkeley. While they expressed sympathy for the homeless, they wanted them to maintain a certain level of civility, which means not overstepping their personal space by spreading around their gear.
Now that UC Berkeley is doing a major overhaul of Lower Sproul Plaza (which will include the destruction of Eshelman Hall) Charles Siegel suggested the sidewalks across the street on Bancroft be widened to allow for more café seating and better pedestrian flow. He pointed to the success of Center Street as an example. Most readers seemed to think his suggestions were good ones? Is anyone in the Planning Department thinking about this?
The stabbing death in Oakland of 26-year old Berkeley resident Jessica Kingeter by a five-time felon was shocking in its brutality. Readers were flabbergasted that Jamaal Prince, 34, of Berkeley, was back on the streets after serving time for threatening to kill his mother. It turns out that not all felonies count towards California’s Three Strikes law. In this case, the law’s nuances were deadly.
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