Letters for the Week of April 9 

One PacificCoast Bank responds and readers sound off on Walgreens in Berkeley and OPD targeting black residents.

Gross Misrepresentation

We are sad to have to write this letter to the Express, with whom we have worked to mend the essential systems of finance, environment, and social justice, especially in distressed communities.

Our track record stands unassailed — until now.

It is, frankly, an outrage how both One PacificCoast Bank (OPCB) and its founders were portrayed in Darwin BondGraham's article. OPCB has always observed and will always follow the highest ethical standards. Pre- and post-housing crash, we have been attempting by all possible means to stanch the bleeding, avert blight, and preserve as much affordable housing as we could. This is called investing in distressed communities.

We have a raft of evidence to counter your baseless claims and a cadre of community partners who will back us up. You have attacked our morals and that is both deeply irresponsible and intolerable.

OPCB is a triple-bottom-line bank mandated to achieve social justice and environmental well-being; at the same time, we are financially sustainable. Our ethical standards are beyond reproach and our procedures and safeguards meet or exceed those required by our main regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Our ownership reinforces our mission. The bank's foundation owns 100 percent of the economic rights of the bank. If and when profits are distributed, they can only go to the foundation, which is required by its bylaws to reinvest them into the low-income communities we serve or the environment upon which we all depend.

We made no mortgage loans before or during the crisis and would not have engaged in the practices that produced the bubble. Instead, we put up a million dollars to try to modify loans through soft seconds, but after a year of hard work, we had not convinced one of the big banks that caused the problems to even talk to us. We next sought, especially in Oakland — our home base — a means of arresting the downward free fall slide of all housing stock, whether refinanced during the boom or not. We identified partners and provided finance to arrest blight in the wake of the wave of foreclosures that was threatening houses contingent to empty homes and whole neighborhoods.

Notwithstanding your unsubstantiated claims, these developers were fixing homes to code and letting out at reasonable rents to local residents displaced by the housing crisis. We continue to monitor our lending for these desired results.

We are out here working on our important societal long-run goals while we lay in ownership, organization, and governance infrastructure to protect our values-based mission. You have grossly misrepresented the situation and us.

Kat Taylor, co-founder and CEO of One PacificCoast Bank


"Berkeley's Chain Pharmacy Wars," News, 3/26

Too Much Loss

Oh no! We already lost our two downtown stationery stores. I hope we don't lose Payn's, too.

Nancy Schimmel, Berkeley

Talk a Walk, Walgreens

"He further argued that 'Solano desperately needs a vibrant sort of public space ....'"

What Mr. Kurt Beleck does not seem to realize is that Solano Avenue itself is a vibrant public space, and the addition of some benches by Walgreens will not significantly add to this. As someone who has lived in Albany for more than ten years and walks the avenue everyday, [I know] there are multiple opportunities for people to engage with each other in public. Many existing businesses have outside space to do just this. This seems to be yet another case of someone from outside the community with little knowledge about the area trying to tell us they know what is best for us. Mr. Beleck should literally take a walk. I am not buying it, and neither should you.

David Patterson, Albany

No Missed Opportunity

Regarding: "Kurt Beleck, vice president of operations at Agree Realty, said the Solano Avenue site needs a corporate developer for several reasons. "'There's a huge missed opportunity if this thing gets killed because certain people feel they're speaking for the entirety of the community.'"So he speaks for the entire community? I see only one or two people showing up at meetings in favor of this project, apart from the paid Walgreens and Agree employees. Those against it have produced a petition of 2,800 signatures, scores of supporters at meetings, hundreds of emails to the council, planning commission, and zoning adjustments board. And what is this "missed opportunity"? The opportunity to buy things at Walgreens? Come on. We've got better things to do.

Chris Gilbert, Berkeley


"Policy Lobby Wants to Gut Medical Pot," Legalization Nation, 3/26

Knowing What's Best

If police and their unions could be patient, California will re-legalize cannabis and then sick citizens will no longer need doctor recommendations for the beneficial plant. In the meantime, perhaps sick citizens should contact the police union hall for recommendations since they seem to know what's best, more than doctors.

Stan White, Dillon, Colorado


"OPD Still Targeting Black Residents," Seven Days, 3/26

Enforce Civil Rights

I am wondering how racist public servants are allowed to continue being employed. Isn't discrimination illegal? So please explain the lack of punishment and loss of employment. As a black Oakland resident, I feel your article stating the obvious was a waste of ink and paper. I would have preferred an article on how black residents can fight to have their civil rights enforced.

Eric Bason, Oakland

Need More Cops

Possibly having more cops means having the resources for real community policing where there are enough cops so they get to know the neighbors and vice-versa, thus reducing the opportunity for making stops based on bad judgment or on profiling.

Michele Ocla, Oakland


"Hot, Hot Heat," Taste, 3/26

Might Replace Sriracha

I picked up one of these bottles from Beauty's Bagels and it's worth it. I think it might replace my Sriracha habit.

Lisa Emily, Oakland


"Alameda County Trashes Library Books," News, 3/12

Important Community Institution

In a democratic society public libraries are one of the two most important community institutions (the other being the public schools). I have been an advocate my entire life for full funding of libraries and for genuine participation of the public in shaping the purpose of its local libraries, their services, and their facilities — in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and now San Lorenzo for the past fifteen years. It's not too much to say that reference librarians are the coolest people in the world.

I have never encountered a more autocratic, secretive library management than the Alameda County Library Department, which operates libraries not only in unincorporated communities (like San Lorenzo), but also certain city libraries (like Albany).

The report on the "weeding" and tossing of books at the Albany Library is merely one more reflection of the failure of Alameda County Library system poobahs to engage the local communities they serve. The San Lorenzo Library was similarly assaulted in 2010, when its collection was slashed from 111,851 books and other materials to 83,959 by distant administrators without prior notice to the local library, let alone consultation with those served by the library. The only explanation for this high-handed "cleansing" action was the distant collection administrator's remark to me: "I like to see a little light between books." None of us were notified in advance or consulted about the changeover to a system-wide "floating collection," which undermines one of the most important opportunities in a library: browsing.

Yes, "weeding" is necessary (the alternative is accommodating more shelves, but there is a limit to that). That's not the central issue, which is how (not whether) those served by a public facility have a say in the planning and management of the facility. 

The letters column does not provide ample opportunity to report on the "plantation management" of the county library system, and so I beg the Express to take up the challenge of throwing light on this hugely important public issue. I have respected and followed the Express since its very first issue. This story is exactly what I have come to expect from the paper — a story that will not be covered anywhere else.

Howard Beckman, San Lorenzo


Miscellaneous

Terrible Ballpark Location

Despite all the City Hall rah-rah and the proximity to Jack London Square, Howard Terminal would make a terrible ballpark location. For starters, after seventy-plus years as an ocean terminal, the site is borderline toxic and would require millions of dollars and years of remediation.

Second, who wants to go to a ballpark with a huge scrap metal yard (Schnitzer Steel) and Port of Oakland's power plant next door?

The walk from either West Oakland or 12th Street BART is sketchy and dangerous. There is no parking. 

Because of sunsets and property orientation, the view will not be of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline, but of the virtually empty former Alameda Naval Base.

The Port of Oakland is nearly $2 billion in debt and has made some dubious deals with marine terminal operators that will restrict its revenue growth for years to come.

So it is desperate to make a deal. This should not be one of them. What will happen when the A's eventually leave Oakland? Who will be stuck with the stadium debt? (By the way, who drew this silly rendering, showing container cranes and an apron? This is totally illogical.)

Oh, and [City Administrator Fred] Blackwell has not played a "pivotal" role in the Oakland Army Base redevelopment. That would be Phil Tagami and his operatives.

Tony Fairfax, Oakland

Correction

Our April 2 Culture Spy, "Where Films Become Performance," incorrectly stated that in Black Hole Cinematheque's program "Adventures Close to Home," footage of a cop and his family were juxtaposed with shots of police training. In fact, it was home footage of satanic hippies that were paired with shots of police training.

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