Category Archives: Comment

Op-ed: Housing is scarce, but UC’s new project is too big

This rendering shows the Stiles Site Student Housing Project from Spieker Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus, looking southeast. Photo: UC Berkeley
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There is no doubt that there is a housing shortage in Berkeley and with UC’s decision to admit more students, the crunch will get even worse. Yet the university’s plan to build an 8-story, 783-bed housing complex on Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue, east of Dana Street and just south of the UC Berkeley campus, is just plain wrong, argue Bill McClung and Martin Holder in an Opinionator piece. The planned design extends from property line to property line … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Berkeley’s housing crisis and how to address it

Potential renters wait in line to view an open house on Durant Avenue, in Berkeley, on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Photo: David Yee ©2016
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Berkeleyside publishes many opinion pieces submitted by readers in its Opinionator section. Three recent ones highlight different perspectives on addressing Berkeley’s current housing crisis.

In an op-ed published March 31, Eric Panzer, who works for Livable Berkeley, argues that solving the city’s housing crisis demands that we build more housing for all income levels, and he encourages people to sign the Livable Berkeley’s Housing Policy Petition.

Also addressing Berkeley’s housing problem, Ben Bartlett, a member of the Berkeley Planning Commission and candidate for City Council District 3, on April 4 outlined what he said was a potential step in the right direction with a new vision for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Housing crisis; city’s fiscal accountability

Berkeley has a critical housing shortage and needs new developments, writes Mayor Tom Bates in an op-ed published on Berkeleyside. Seen here: a proposed building on San Pablo Avenue. Image: HKIT Architects
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Berkeleyside publishes many opinion pieces submitted by readers in its Opinionator section.

In an op-ed published on March 24, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates addresses what he describes as the city’s “critical” housing crisis. While he acknowledges there is no simple answer, Bates is proposing a Housing Action Plan “to optimize our existing housing initiatives.” The new proposals — which include streamlining approval for green housing projects, a new “City Density Bonus” designed to create workforce housing, and incentives for landlords who rent to Section-8 tenants — go before City Council on April 5. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Tiny houses, benefits of theater, animal care…

Tiny house. Photo: Tammy Strobel
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Berkeleyside publishes many opinion pieces submitted by readers in its Opinionator section.

Terry Pink Alexander, the former director of development at Head Royce School and the former executive director of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, argued in an op-ed published on March 4 that children from disadvantaged communities benefit tremendously from seeing live theater, and we should help facilitate that.

Singer, writer and veteran activist of social justice movements Carol Denney wrote in an op-ed published March 16 says so-called “tiny houses,” while cute, are not the solution for homeless people, despite what Berkeley mayoral candidate Mike Lee says.

Ted Edlin, who has served on many local government commissions over the years, argued that too much is wrong in Berkeley and the powers that be are not on the job. “If you want police, and fire protection, and affordable garbage collection, you had better start to pay attention because ignoring the problem is going to cost you an arm and a leg and maybe your life,” he wrote. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Better biking; public health; college career day

Cyclists
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Berkeleyside publishes many opinion pieces submitted by readers in its Opinionator section. The three most recent address cycling in the city, and the need to make it safer; public health concerns among low-income neighborhoods; and helping our youth get on a higher education track through the upcoming college career day on March 9.

Joe DiStefano, who with his two kids rides the streets of Berkeley every day, expresses his deep concern about the city’s commitment to addressing the needs of bicyclists — particularly in light of the recent near-fatal accident at Fulton Street and Bancroft Way.

Jackie Boyd, a board member of Healthy Black Families, urges the community to be proactive and preemptive when it comes to public health issues to avoid a disaster such as Flint water crisis happening here. … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Library Gardens neglect, park restrooms, more

Library Gardens. Photo: Devisadaria Duchine-Khauli
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Op-eds published by Berkeleyside in its Opinionator section this month address four different Berkeley-related issues.

Devisadaria Duchine-Khauli lives in the Library Gardens apartment building where six people died in June 2015 after a balcony collapsed. Duchine-Khauli loved living in the downtown complex when she first moved there. Since then, however, she has seen nothing but deterioration, which she has carefully chronicled. As she writes: “I’ve never experienced living in conditions such as those in Library Gardens before, but once I’d observed and experienced these incidences in short succession, I became fearful about the sustainability of the complex during an earthquake, or even El Niño.” … Continue reading »

Op-eds: Readers chime in on homelessness

About 50 people have set up tents on the front lawn of Old City Hall to protest news homeless laws passed by the Berkeley City Council last week. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley City Council will again consider how it handles homelessness at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Berkeleyside has published two op-eds in recent days that tackle straight on the subject of homelessness in our city.

Michael Lee, a homeless, disabled senior citizen, argues that the ‘Liberty City’ encampment that was set up by homeless people outside Old City Hall, then dismantled at the request of the city, represented a viable solution rather than a problem.

As he writes: “…we housed and provided storage for 7% of the homeless population. We policed ourselves with very limited assistance from law enforcement. We established a recycling center to generate a community fund. Most importantly we created our own government. The cost to the city was two trash pick-ups. It should be noted that this community was built out of the dirt. We pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps to solve our problem. Isn’t that the American way?” … Continue reading »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »

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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 »