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Re: “You're Not an Environmentalist If You're Also a NIMBY

During the 70's, there was a group called ZPG - Zero Population Growth. It was instituted by a recognition that unsustainable growth in a population practicing a destructive way of life was careening toward exceeding the carrying capacity of the environment.

The recommendation was that every couple limit their procreation to two offspring - the number of children needed to continue the next generation, and the number that would prevent the explosive population growth we have witnessed in recent history. "Smart growth" is nothing more than a PC way of avoiding the hard reality that what we face is an overpopulation problem. Enabling a destructive procreation pattern by accommodating an ever increasing number of people with ever denser housing is no solution at all. In fact, this enabling greatly increases the likelihood that we humans will face a demise of our own making.

Building denser urban cores simply serves to decrease the quality of life for everyone, but particularly urban dwellers. It accelerates the disintegration of the environment as we march inevitably down a path to a world incapable of supporting any life save cockroaches, rats, viruses, bacteria, mildew and mold. The aforementioned species all thrive on a densely packed human population and environs devoid of adequate natural light and aerobic plant life.

While a sea of concrete and glass separated by rivers of asphalt may whet the appetites of greedy developers who seldom live in the messes they wreak, it does nothing for the sustainability of life. At the ground level, highrises create wind tunnels, perpetual shadows and claustrophobic streets. A city filled with highrises creates what are known as "heat islands" - geographic areas that are 10-15 degrees hotter than the surrounding countryside. Just as carbon emissions trap greenhouse gases and increase the heat load in the atmosphere, so too can clusters of urban "heat islands".

When urban land is replaced by excessively dense development - particularly closely spaced high-rise or bulky mid-rise buildings, the opportunity to plant subsistence gardens is lost. Economic downturns, such as the one we are now in the midst of, can force urban dwellers to turn to their own resources to survive. A paucity of open urban land can prevent them from growing the food they need - a recipe for mass famine. Couple this with the depletion and degradation of our finite, potable water resources and the future scenario becomes quite bleak.

It seems to me that far from ameliorating the effects of global warming, a denser urban core may, in fact, may be a major contributor to global warming. The primary problem in global warming is that too many people are living unsustainable lifestyles that put an untenable strain on the earth's capacity to support them.

Methinks it is high-time we take another serious look at ZPG and spare our cities the assault they are currently being subjected to by shortsighted "smart growth" groupies, cash-strapped city officials and carpet bagging developers.

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Anne Wellington on 07/02/2009 at 12:23 AM

Re: “Letters for February 18

Thank you for your letter, Gabriel, "Electric Isn't Clean". You make important points that are often overlooked in this age of electronic fetishism ranging from iPods to Electric Cars. Computers, cell phones, electric toothbrushes, leaf blowers, hair dryers, televisions, Blackberries, etc., are just a few of the modern devices requiring either a battery or electric current to run. While most of these are so ubiquitous or small as to seem insignificant, the accumulation of such devices distributed widely throughout a dense human population contributes to pollution and global warming just as surely as the petroleum burning auto does.

It seems to me that rather than trying to fix our environmental problems by kneeling to the technology God, who grants us more and more electronic conveniences, we need to make personal sacrifices if we are serious about reversing the accelerating problem of global warming. One act that comes to mind is forsaking the personal auto completely and relying instead on bicycle, public transportation, car sharing, foot or an occasional taxi. This is a truly clean solution.

Posted by Anne Wellington on 02/18/2009 at 7:57 PM

Re: “Letters for December 3

Thank you, Noel Santos, for your letter. I am an American citizen whose ancestors immigrated to this country in the 1600's (both sides), legally. It is highly audacious, and dishonest, to intentionally break US immigration laws and then demand rights after having disrespected all those who have complied with US laws to live and work in the US.

A "better life" becomes less likely when a country is overwhelmed with the flood of illegal crossings we have experienced over the last several years, combined with the failure to not only enforce the laws on the books, but to grant privileges to those who have intentionally broken our laws.

Overpopulation puts undue stress on the environment and resources, and creates intensified competition for finite opportunities, resources, and space. Hence, a race to the bottom ensues in terms of wages and standards of living for all within the affected country.

The immigration laws are on the books for very good reasons. Absolutely, illegal is illegal, no matter how nicely couched in pc rhetoric.

Posted by Anne Wellington on 12/03/2008 at 7:31 PM

Re: “Letters for October 8

I'd like to add a few arguments to the two excellent letters commenting on the dense development proposed for Alameda. The first point is that denser urban cores contribute to the acceleration of global warming. The concentration of concrete, asphalt and glass in geographically confined areas without relief from plant life act as a magnifying glass held over a sheet of paper on a hot day. In Florida, when strip malls and vast parking lots first became the rage, citizens discovered much to their chagrin, that these structures combined with the asphalt and the elimination of foliage to accommodate them increased the temperatures at these malls and on the parking lots by a full ten degrees Fahrenheit. The second point is that open space is essential in the urban environment and may become more so as the economic crisis deepens and the cost of food continues to increase. Access to land that gets good light during daylight hours and having enough acreage to support subsistence gardens may become a critical consideration in feeding urban populations. Exceeding the carrying capacity of any environment by artificially concentrating a population within a narrow confine can easily prove devastating in terms of famine, lack of access to clean water, communicable diseases and increased violence stemming from overcrowding.

Posted by Anne Wellington on 10/08/2008 at 11:16 PM

Re: “Another Bad Deal

The "Shroud of Shame", a.k.a. "Trojan Towers", is a testimony to the
lack of wisdom and foresight the City of Oakland exercises in regard to development projects and to which developers redevelopment money will go. It is no accident that the City Council members and the Redevelopment Agency are one in the same in Oakland. It is no accident that revenue generated by the ORA stays in the ORA and is never redistributed to the maintenance of the City infrastructure: roads,
police, fire protection, sewers, etc.

Oakland's tax base needs to be increased through the
addition of new homeowners in Oakland. So the City and developer logic goes when the rubberstamp hovers and the carpetbaggers swarm. This is why the Redevelopment Agency exists and nearly every flatland neighborhood in Oakland has been turned into either an entitilement zone or a redevelopment area.

Nearly two-thirds of the new condos built, or abandoned mid-stream
during their development, remain empty and unsold. Jackson Courtyard on the corner of 14th and Jackson shines as a too-good-to-be-true luxury condo development in a bustling Oakland neighborhood on the internet (http://www.jbdinc.net/about_us.html). The reality is the Shroud of Shame is a seven-story plastic covered icon of corruption, shoddy workmanship, years of liens for unpaid services, and a defaulted loan package with a price tag of nearly $13 million. Curtis Eisenberger, stands at the helm of repeated shady deals and a litter of unpaid loans for properties stretching from the South of Market area of San Francisco to the Gold Coast in Oakland. In Oakland, the Shroud is one of these. The Red Star Yeast Factory is another.

Enter the Curtis Eisenberger and Jabari Herbert financial partnership.

The Red Star Yeast Factory property in West Oakland and 14th and Jackson are both brownfields. Contaminated properties are greatly
diminished in value because of their toxicity and the anticipated clean up required if the land is to be reused. The $4 million price tag for the Red Star property is outrageous for this reason alone, but the financial wheelings and dealings of Herbert and Eisenberger in connection to the Red Star property make the price border on the criminal.

With politically well connected developers such as Herbert and Eisenberger, it is impossible for Oakland to make any money, attract the well-heeled residents for which it vies, or gain the respect it seeks. In fact, as one of the jilted creditors in both the Red Star deal and the Jackson Coutyard debacle, the City of Oakland lost money, and created blight where there was none before.

Now, after leaving several creditors holding the bag to the tune of $3 million by declaring bankruptcy just prior to court proceedings on the foreclosure of the Red Star property in March of 2007, Herbert and Eisenberger are on the short list of potential buyers for the same property.

It seems that in Oakland, the same mistakes are repeated over and over, with the same well connected players, and with the same predictable results. The question, half answered, remains: Will Herbert and Eisenberger once again own the Red Star property purchased at double the original price? The mystery is how Herbert and Eisenberger continue to get loans when their track record shows such a dubious history of paying them back. Oh, that's right, these are "forgiveable loans".

Mystery solved.

For those who want to dig deeper, check these articles out:

Red Star Yeast Factory foreclosure: http://eastbay.bizjournals.com/eastbay/stories/2007/03/26/story7.html

Curtis Eisenberger's dubious history:
http://eastbay.bizjournals.com/eastbay/stories/2007/02/19/story2.html

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Anne Wellington on 08/23/2008 at 1:25 PM

Re: “Raising the Rent at 138 Monte Cresta

As a long time resident of the Bay Area, I have seen rents increase an average of 200-250% over the past 15 years. This hyper-inflation serves only to decrease the value of the American currency and to generate a climate of greed that borders on criminal.

With regard to rent control in Oakland, there is very little in the way of real protection for tenants - even though the law states that rents cannot be increased more than the CPI annually.

The truth is that unscrupulous landlords regularly take advantage of "opportunistic evictions" to get rid of long-term tenants so that their rent rolls can be brought up to "market rate" - the hyper-inflated figure landlords now feel entitled to charging.

Another tactic used by unscrupulous landlords is the "prompt payment discount" clause in some leases that states the rent to be much higher than the rate paid for "prompt payment". Potential tenants are hooked into the lower rate by "bait and switch" advertising stating the lower rent is the rent on the apartment. This is a slick way of getting around California laws that limit the amount that can be charged for late payments on rent, and to usuriously increase tenants' rent.

In on such case, rent was advertised on a studio apartment on Craigslist for $790 per month. The attorney / landlord's twisted logic stated that the rent was in fact $1399 per month. Added to this was a "prompt payment discount" clause that equalled the amount advertised on Craigslist, $790 per month. The draconian conditions stated that this "prompt payment discount" was earned only if rent was always received by the landlord on the 1st, regardless of whether or not this date fell on a holiday, or the rent was postmarked on the 1st. The penalty for slipping on these conditions, even once, was a permanent rent increase to the usurious $1399 a month, nearly twice the advertised rent.

The Just Cause Ordinance is being flagrantly violated, Criminal Codes are being broken - "bait and switch" is a misdemeanor, and the California Civil Code is being broken with regard to late penalties and legally defined timely rent payment. Yet, unscrupulous landlords are getting away with this flagrant abuse.

The net effect of landlords invoking "prompt payment discounts" and then illegally raising tenants' rents well beyond the annual CPI is the creeping erosion of affordability in rental housing. Increasing tolerance of this type of landlord abuse is ominous for the future of decent rental housing, but equally dangerous is the pattern of "opportunistic evictions" that permanently destroys affordable housing in the face of gentrification.

All tenants should be concerned about the erosion of tenant protections, hyper-inflation in rents, and the destruction of affordable housing by means of "opportunistic evictions". Greed is the driving force. Greed knows no bounds and cares nothing about the health of the community or the welfare of the members who compose it. The rope of affordability unravels from the poorest citizens in the community to the better off. It is just a matter of time and the advance of greed that facilitates the unravelling.

Posted by Anne Wellington on 05/07/2008 at 11:20 PM

Re: “Letters for January 24-29, 2008

John - What a splendid letter you wrote on Schilling Gardens. Thank you in particular for adding the piece about the overwhelming amount of infill development slated for the downtown area.

May I also add that the concept of 'if they build, the residents will flock to fill the new spaces' has not worked. We have been under assault by excessive development in our downtown corridor for nearly ten years now - since Jerry's 10K mandate. Yet, many of the "luxury" condos and apartments, newly built, lie with excessive chronic vacancies.

Take the Essex, for example. Any evening between the hours of 7:00pm and 9:00pm, when people are home and awake, few of the units facing the lake ever have any lights at all in them. These are the Essex'es prime units, yet they have remained empty since it was completed. There have also been foreclosure sales for units in the Essex.

The optimum vacancy rate for an urban area is between 4.5% and 6%, according to ABAG. Below this, there is a housing shortage, and scarcity drives prices up.

Above this, there is a housing glut. Eventually, if vacancies continue to accumulate in this neighborhood, the housing glut will drive housing prices down in sellers' and landlords' efforts to fill their properties. Chronic vacancies are almost certain to increase if there are no caps on the number of permits approved for developing new apartment and condo complexes. Neighborhoods with excessive vacancies also become less desirable. Add the dimension of an unrelenting landscape of concrete, glass and asphalt, which is the goal of "smart growth", and the desirability of a neighborhood plummets even further.

Rather than creating the luxury enclave envisioned by the not-so-smart growth set, Oakland's downtown is likely to become little more than the ghetto that it was in years past when drug lords ruled its streets and crime was even more rampant than it is now.

Posted by Anne Wellington on 01/23/2008 at 8:06 PM

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