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Carol Denney, Berkeley
Measure T and Not-So-Smart Growth
As a longtime environmentalist, I am offended by your claim that defeating Measure T caused our climate to take a "hit." This is grossly misleading at best and not even true at worst. Development causes massive greenhouse gas emissions of its own and there is no evidence that "smart growth" stops or reduces sprawl, which is really the issue here. (Increased greenhouse gas emissions, which further contribute to climate change, are a byproduct of sprawl.) The evidence instead seems to show that developers end up building sprawl regardless of smart growth. Smart growth seems to be just a developer ploy to have their cake and eat it too: They get to build both in cities and in previously undeveloped areas. You should be more careful about getting into bed with developers — their main goal is money and they'll say anything to get it. However, for the sake of argument, let's assume that smart growth actually works.
First and foremost, neither you nor those who oppose development — the people you derogatorily call "NIMBYs" — ever even mention the actual problem, which is ever-increasing human population. Those who support "smart" growth are therefore trying to fix the problems caused by human overpopulation and ever-increasing growth by doing anything but dealing directly with those problems.
On one hand, I fully understand the concept of smart growth and I support it to a point. People should live near where they work and shop, and building homes along public transit lines and near workplaces makes sense. But on the other hand, those of us who have two or fewer kids are not the cause of this problem. If we don't want to live in densely populated areas we should not be forced to do so. I lived in San Francisco on more than one occasion totaling almost fifteen years, and I can attest to the fact that due to its dense population it often felt like I was crammed into a cage with other city rats: Too many people, too much noise, too many cars, etc. I recently moved back to Berkeley after a long absence and find it really pleasant to be away from all that.
So, what to do? Well, smart growth is fine to an extent, but in a relatively small city like Berkeley, it must be very limited; 75- or even 50-foot-tall buildings anywhere in Berkeley outside of downtown are too big, and nothing at all should be built within sight of Aquatic Park or any other park. In fact, ecologically speaking, lack of parks and open space in Berkeley is a far bigger problem than lack of housing; there are already plenty of people here. However, in order to try to stop or at least reduce sprawl, we should be willing to put up with a little more housing development if it can be shown that doing so will reduce or eliminate sprawl. But Proposition T went too far and it's a good thing it was defeated. I live very close to the areas where the development would have taken place and would have considered moving had it passed.
What should be done in Berkeley first is a study, by an actually neutral party that is not in any way connected with developers or their politicians, that shows that building more housing in Berkeley would reduce or eliminate sprawl somewhere. If this turns out to be the case, any development here must come with a prohibition on development on the natural land that those who propose the development claim to be saving from development. And any development must be limited in size so that it does not significantly alter the neighborhoods and areas in and near which it is built. This would actually be "smart" growth, and reasonable people should be able to agree to it.
Those of us who live in Berkeley chose to live here, not San Francisco or any other densely populated city. If you want to live in a place like that, move to San Francisco and leave the rest of us alone. All housing development in Berkeley should have to prove that it's saving development of natural land somewhere else and should be limited in size to what is appropriate for the area. And if you really care about problems of sprawl and climate change, the best thing you can do is to limit your family to zero to two kids, encourage others to do the same, and make contraception, abortion, and sex education readily available to everyone. The environmental and ecological problems of this planet are caused by human overpopulation and overconsumption. Doing other things instead of fixing those problems is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and forcing those of us who don't want to live in densely populated areas and did not contribute to this problem is simply immoral.
Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley
"Late Results: the New Normal," Seven Days, 11/21
Worth the Wait
If the alternative to many people dropping their absentee ballots at a polling place on election day is for those people to mail their completed ballots a week or two earlier, then a delay in announcing winners is worth the wait because giving people time to consider their votes makes for better informed choices.
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