Category Archives: Comment


Op-eds: Readers weigh in on 72-hour parking limit, homelessness and ‘demolition by neglect’

Berkeley Municipal Pier
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After the tempestuous City Council discussion on homelessness last week, it’s unsurprising that the issue continues to prompt strong viewpoints. But that’s not the only thing Berkeleyans care about.

In his Opinionator piece, activist JP Massar claims the council majority, which approved a measure dealing with homelessness, is “scamming” the public. While the ordinance calls for storage lockers and showers, Massar writes that no money has been allocated for those actions. “By claiming to provide storage, public restrooms and showers they make us feel good, or at least good enough to shrug and turn away,” he writes.

In a sobering photo essay in Opinionator, North East Berkeley Association president Isabelle Gaston laments the deteriorating state of many of Berkeley’s public buildings and facilities, which she terms “demolition by neglect.” The amount of money the city allocates for infrastructure spending, she writes, “is grossly inadequate.” Gaston wants her essay to spark a conversation and community ideas for action. Add your voice to the comments.

Finally, freelance journalist Michael Levitin takes aim at the “draconian yet little known” Berkeley ordinance that limits street parking to 72 hours. Levitin returned from two weeks away and found that his car had been towed by the city, racking up fees and fines of nearly $2,500. The law, Levitin argues, is especially discriminatory against renters who don’t have an off-street parking space. “This city has smart ambitious climate goals to reduce emissions 33% by 2020, encouraging residents to leave vehicles at home,” he writes. “Yet when we do, we’re penalized for it.” … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Readers weigh in on housing and the homeless

Homeless advocates sleep overnight in tents in front of old City Hall to protest proposed measures which they say will make life more difficult for the homeless, in Berkeley, on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. Photo: David Yee ©2015
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Tuesday’s Berkeley City Council meeting is packed with important and controversial issues. The City Council will consider a package of laws that address the behavior and impact of homeless people on other residents.

Opponents of the law believe the proposed measure will further criminalize the homeless. Eric Panzer, the chairman of the board of Liveable Berkeley, disagrees and argues in an Opinionator that Berkeley must grapple with “residents’ understandable discomfort with the state of our sidewalks.” The new proposed rules will do that in a way that “carefully balances Berkeley’s commitment to compassion and to well-maintained public spaces.”

Berkeley resident Bill Williams agrees, arguing in an op-ed, published Monday, that the new proposals “are a reasonable first step in striking the balance between the need to provide services and solutions for the City’s homeless, and a desire to expect a minimum level of civil behavior in Berkeley.” … Continue reading »


Op-eds: Competing views of Berkeley police ‘stop data’

Michael Meehan, Berkeley police chief, and Andrea Prichett (right).
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The national topic of racial bias in policing heated up in Berkeley in recent weeks after several groups pointed to racial disparities in police car stop data, and said it showed that Berkeley officers are treating motorists of different races by different standards.

This week, we have two op-eds on the subject. Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan writes that the department is already at the forefront of efforts to address implicit bias, and that deeper analysis of the numbers needs to be done.

Berkeley Copwatch co-founder Andrea Prichett and others who sought the police stop data argue that the Berkeley Police Department needs to do much more to address the racial disparities. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Harold Way, BUSD, housing, minimum wage, more

The project at 2211 Harold Way which influenced the commission's decision, Finacom said. Image: MVEI Architects
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Spirited op-eds on a variety of topical issues continue to be published by Berkeleyside over in our Opinionator section. Every so often we like to flag up what you may have missed. So here goes…

In an op-ed published Sept. 18, Michael Saltsman,  research director at the Employment Policies Institute, argues that the Berkeley Labor Commission’s bid to have the minimum wage raised to $19 an hour is misguided. “[It has] picked a number that might scratch an ideological itch, but it has zero basis in economic reality,” he writes.

Sean K. Slate, an architect who serves on the board of the Downtown Berkeley Association, argues in another piece that it’s time to stop the delaying tactics and approve the big downtown Berkeley project at Harold Way. (In fact on Sept. 30 the Zoning Adjustments Board approved the Harold Way use permit with increased affordable housing provision.)

Ilse Rueda, a 2011 Berkeley High School graduate and currently a student at San Francisco State on pace to graduate in Spring 2016, wrote about how the Berkeley Community Fund kept her college dream alive after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. … Continue reading »


Op-eds: Harold Way, police tools, fire prevention…

It's difficult for emergency vehicles to pass through many of Berkeley's narrow streets. Photos: Bob Flasher
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Spirited op-eds on a variety of topical issues continue to be published by Berkeleyside over in our Opinionator section. Every so often we like to flag up what you may have missed. So here goes…

Last month, James Shinn is a retired American diplomat who has previously been involved in downtown planning projects, argued that if Berkeley moves forward with the proposed Harold Way Project, it would sacrifice the character of “this unique, beautiful university town and its unusual place in American history, and instead transform this city into a generic replica of the sad, dehumanizing banality characteristic of so much of new urban architecture in America today.” A few days after we published the piece, the Harold Way project won the approval of the Landmarks Commission. … Continue reading »


Op-ed: Give Berkeley police tools they need to do the job

Police search Sacramento Street, near Dwight Way, for an armed robber who robbed a laundromat, in Berkeley, on Monday, July 27, 2015. Photo: David Yee
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In July, Berkeley police officers came under scrutiny, not least by many people writing in Berkeleyside’s comments section, for what was seen by some as a heavy-handed response to an armed suspect who robbed a laundromat in South Berkeley and attacked an older resident near Sacramento Street. The department’s use of an armored vehicle was the focus of the criticism.

In an op-ed published on Berkeleyside, Chris Stines, president of the Berkeley Police Association, says the borrowed vehicle used in the operation had a single purpose: preventing bullets from killing or severely injuring Berkeley residents.

Stines argues that the vehicle, as well as other tools such as search helicopters, a canine unit and drones should be directly available to the Berkeley Police Department. “While well-intentioned, several city council decisions over the past several decades have had the effect of tying the hands of the police in volatile operations, and are overdue for a fresh look,” he writes. “Dogs, helicopters and drones are not intended for everyday policing. But with the potential for harm to the public, we want to have as many resources at our disposal as we can and as quickly as we can.” … Continue reading »


Op-ed: Harold Way will sacrifice Berkeley’s unique character

2211 Harold Way is one of several tall building proposals in the pipeline that must offer "significant community benefits" under the Downtown Area Plan. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
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The 2211 Harold Way development comes before the Landmarks Preservation Commission on Thursday evening. The project, which would be the first new tall building allowed under the voter-approved Downtown Area Plan, has been wending through numerous committees, hearings and City Council meetings.

Read more about the Harold Way plans in past Berkeleyside coverage.

In an Opinionator piece on Berkeleyside, James Shinn argues that the 18-story multi-use project, if completed as currently proposed, “will forever change the nature … Continue reading »

Op-ed: Mayor Bates accuses former Mayor Shirley Dean of abusing the Public Records Act

Berkeley City Council, Jan. 27, 2015. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Most government records are subject to California’s Public Records Act, which means cities like Berkeley have to turn over internal documents when asked. The California Public Records Act defines public records as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.”

In an Opinionator piece in Berkeleyside, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates lambasts former Mayor Shirley Dean for a public records request she made that he says is far-reaching and will take up so much time that it will render the city government ineffective. … Continue reading »

Op-ed: Loss of Christine Daniel reflects serious and growing problem within Berkeley government

City Manager Christine Daniel, leaving for the deputy position in Oakland. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Christine Daniel has only been city manager for three years, but in that short amount of time her work addressing Berkeley’s unfunded pension liabilities has been impressive, argue the board members of the North East Berkeley Association in an Opinionator piece published on Berkeleyside.

“Ms. Daniel did a superb job in outlining the City’s vast unfunded liabilities over time and in creating budgets which more clearly addressed these liabilities. Under her leadership, we have seen great improvements in the way plans and projects for parks, streets, and other services are conceptualized, presented and budgeted,” the five board members write. … Continue reading »


Op-ed: BUSD takes multi-tier approach to help students at Berkeley Technology Academy

Berkeley Technology Academy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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In an Opinionator piece, Donald Evans, the Berkeley school superintendent, discusses the many challenges facing the students at the district’s alternative high school, Berkeley Technology Academy.

Since “90% of the students who attend BTA bring with them a history of profound exposure to complex traumatic stress that often has created significant barriers to both academic and personal development,” Evans says it is important that the school district adopts a multi-faceted approach to helping these students. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Berkeley Technology Academy, rentals, UC and fossil fuels, Adeline Street, $15 wage, Harold Way

Berkeley Technology Academy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeleyside’s Opinionator section continues to draw passionate, well-articulated argument on a number of topical issues.

In case you missed them, here’s a recap of six recent op-eds:

BERKELEY TECHNOLOGY ACADEMY After Berkeleyside published a lengthy investigative story on the troubled Berkeley Technology Academy, the city’s second high school, John Fike, a teacher on special assignment there, advocated for a positive response. “Rather than cast blame, point fingers and re-count unfortunate anecdotes of past and current students in crisis situations, I’d like to take this opportunity to provide additional context about the challenge of our school, and how some of us think and hope we might become better and more effective at serving our students, who are indeed — as our Principal Quintana accurately states — simultaneously “brilliant kids” and “traumatized,” he writes.Continue reading »

Op-ed: Don’t penalize small Airbnb proprietors

The owners of this rent-controlled apartment complex at 3100 College Ave. are renting out three of its apartments on Airbnb. Berkeley law does not allow rentals shorter than 14 days. Photo: Melati
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On Tuesday, June 9, the Berkeley City Council is set to consider eliminating the restrictions on short-term rentals. It is currently illegal to rent out apartments and rooms in the city for fewer than 14 days. However, there are thousands of short-term rentals listed on Airbnb, VRBO, Home Away and other websites, and many in the city contend they are depleting the permanent housing supply. Berkeley officials are seeking to balance private entrepreneurship with a good supply of rental units.

In an Opinionator piece, West Berkeley homeowner Jenny Lederer argues that the proposed measure — which will be further vetted by the city’s Planning Commission and Housing Advisory Commission  — will unnecessarily penalize homeowners who have freestanding in-law units and unused spaces. … Continue reading »


Op-ed: BTA teacher asks, how can we support our kids?

Berkeley Technology Academy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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On Wednesday, Berkeleyside reporter Emilie Raguso took an in-depth look at a range of challenges faced by the Berkeley Technology Academy community.

Today, B-Tech teacher John Fike shares his views about where the conversation can go from here.

Fike writes that there is a conversation happening now in Southern California about whether to deem complex trauma — which is experienced by the vast majority of BTA students — a federally recognized disability. If that happens, Fike writes, this could be a “watershed moment in public education in our state and country.”

Fike also notes that, given the huge challenges faced by the students, it makes sense that teachers and other staff on campus would be affected by the intensity, too.

“In a broad sense, the article about our school is an accurate reflection of all these complex emotions and responses. The ‘alarm’ that was raised in that article needs to be understood as a desperate cry for help in a profoundly challenging situation,” he writes. … Continue reading »