Letters for the Week of March 27, 2013 

Readers sound off on CEQA.

Page 2 of 3

As I said in a previous letter, the problem that you want to solve with development is really overpopulation and constant population growth. You should be advocating for people to limit their families to zero to one child, and stop being a shill for developers to bring ever more people into our cities and thereby denigrate the quality of our lives. To paraphrase someone commenting in the online environmental magazine Grist a long time ago, you don't fix the environment by harming the environment, and all development is harmful. If you want to fix the problem of too many people to fit in the current housing, reduce the number of people, and don't further harm the environment and our lives by building more harmful projects.

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley

Dumb Growth

I write in response to Robert Gammon's "smart growth" screed. He says that Berkeley has historically been plagued by a housing shortage. Yes, historically it was. But the last ten years of frenetic multi-unit housing construction have changed that, and for-lease signs on oppressive, blocky housing projects are now omnipresent.

Gammon claims that only 17 percent of the jobs in Berkeley are filled by Berkeley residents. Obviously those employed in the other 83 percent of the jobs choose to live elsewhere! Otherwise they would simply move into one those big housing projects now displaying "for lease" signs.

As long as there are empty apartments in the existing block-housing that Berkeley workers choose not to inhabit, building more of the same is environmental insanity. Needlessly consuming tons of concrete, glass, metal, and sheetrock, with all the pollution involved in the production thereof, is Dumb Growth at its most extreme.

Peter Schorer, Berkeley

Look at the Numbers

I was disturbed to see my work taken out of context in your recent mischaracterization of the battle over the California Environmental Quality Act. Robert Gammon appears to have accepted the story being pedaled by development interests that CEQA is in need of a massive overhaul. In fact, no such overhaul is necessary, as the statute is working to protect California's resources exactly as the legislature intended.

The article talks about "research by the law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger," and yet Mr. Gammon never called the firm to verify the research he cited. My research was taken out of context by key proponents of weakening CEQA, and Mr. Gammon simply repeated their spin. The article implies that developers lose their court cases too often and therefore CEQA must be weakened. The statistic he cites, which refers to published appellate and Supreme Court decisions, deals with cases where important legal issues were at hand.

The fact that pro-environment forces win 43 percent of published cases does not suggest CEQA is broken. Rather, the opposite is true. In these cases, the courts held developers and public agencies accountable to provide the environmental protections that Californians count on. This statistic tells us that the law is working as it was intended, not that it is abused.

Hundreds of conservation organizations, including NRDC, Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity, have united to stand strong behind CEQA. The article barely mentions the views of these groups. While it provides extensive quotations from those seeking to gut CEQA, it provides almost no information from the other side; only the Center of Biological Diversity is quoted, but that statement is buried at the end of the long article.

Mr. Gammon did East Bay residents a disservice by telling only one side of this story.

E. Clement Shute

Co-Founder of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP

Everything Has Impacts

Even green projects have impacts. But are they significant? Can they be mitigated enough to use a [negative declaration]? The city took a risk in a litigious society. A good [environmental impact review] could have been processed, revised, reprocessed, and certified, and the project could have been completed by now.

Bob Chioino, Berkeley

Fake Environmentalism

"Density development" without honest, affordable transit options, unrelated to mandated open space, accommodating mostly high-end tech workers rather than addressing the crisis in low-income housing, is not green. It's fake environmentalism that tilts against sunlight; quiet, natural landscapes and horizons; historic buildings; and respect for neighborhoods while lining developers' pockets.

Our politicians and planners are supposed to be working with and for the people who voted for them, not the people who can pour the most money into their campaigns and keep them in power whether they reflect our wishes or not. Former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean was proud to oppose poorly remediated brownfields development for the obvious reason that our watershed deserves honest respect not only for our sakes, but the planet's.

It should surprise none of us when developers control politics at the local and state level. But it should shock us when otherwise intelligent reporters go right along with it.

Carol Denney, Berkeley

Dismayed

As a Berkeley resident concerned about climate change, I'm dismayed to see the Express fall for the bait-and-switch PR campaign against the California Environmental Quality Act. Big developers' attorneys are using "smart growth" infill projects as a Trojan horse for their effort to gut California's landmark environmental quality law.

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