Letters for the week of November 4-10 

Readers sound off on planning department transparency, the city's attitude towards sex workers, and the Warriors' disregard for their hometown

"The True Sharing Economy," Feature, 11/4

Reich Is Right

Robert Reich (an economist and UC Berkeley professor) coined a pretty accurate term for Uber, Airbnb, etc.'s tech exploitation of people and assets for investor profit: It's a "share-the-scraps economy."

Joe Gont, Berkeley


"Special Deal Would Benefit Influential Developer," News, 11/4

Good Plan, Crap Process

Looking at the Broadway/Valdez [District] Specific Plan height areas map, it looks like 85 feet on that side of Broadway was the plan, save for the little 45-foot carve-out between 24th and 25th streets (which I assume is the property in question). I'd say allowing more density there is fine and certainly not inconsistent with the general intent of the community plan, in my view.

So, [it] seems to me to be a) good planning practice, and b) crap process. Typical these days, sadly.

Nefarious and corrupt? I doubt it highly.

Justin Horner, Oakland

If It Quacks Like a Duck

The issue here is really not about the zoning changes proposed. Whether or not a new Signature development would be appropriate or not on the affected parcels is only a side note. The issue at the forefront of the story is all about transparency.

The City of Oakland seemingly has a real problem in this area. What is even more disturbing is that it is happening at the top levels of government. The backroom shenanigans that went on behind closed doors in the UrbanCore [Development LLC] housing proposal on East 12th Street was not only illegal, it was shameful and should have been embarrassing. Apparently, no lessons were learned.

Of course, paid lobbyists and attorneys will argue both sides of an issue for the right price, and that is just how it works. However, the one thing that is critical for the public is that the purity of the process is never compromised. Public trust that whatever the recommendation or decision, the planning department is diligent in making sure that the process is both legal and taking place in the light of day is paramount.

In this case, the planning director sits on [Urban Land Institute] panels with Mike Ghielmetti proclaiming that there is no housing crisis in Oakland. Then magically, his newly acquired sites get included at the last minute, buried in a complicated zoning change proposal.

In addition, two weeks ago, Signature proposed to significantly change the open space mitigation required for demolition of the 9th Street terminal in the Brooklyn Basin development. The planning staff supported its cheapened design, suggesting that it met all of the required findings. Clearly, as expressed by the Express and most outside observers, it did not. Thank God the planning commission said "no."

You could never prove that there was an inside deal, but if it has feathers and a beak, waddles and quacks, it must be a duck.

Hey, Ms. [Rachel] Flynn (planning director), making money for developers is not in your job description. Making sure that you and your staff follow the law and facilitate the process in the light of day is in your job description. Whether you make good decisions or not may be debatable, but preserving your integrity and the public trust is way more important than any land use decision or recommendation you will ever make. Whether you know it or not, that is where your real power comes from.

Gary Patton, former deputy director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Oakland, Hayward

$8 Beers: The New 'Secret Sauce'

The impact of this will be to basically displace the 25th Street galleries that are symbiotic with Oakland Art Murmur and price artists out of the area they cultivated before anyone wanted to develop there. That's just bad policy, one which makes Mayor [Libby] Schaaf's task force on affordable housing for artists seem like a cruel joke, if not a PR/propaganda move. Ironically, affordable housing and artist spaces were a primary topic of discussion at the recent "[Uptown] Techonomic [Development] Forum," held at — you guessed it — Impact Hub.

This article confirmed anecdotal and evidentiary reports that the city's planning commission does not have the creative community in mind and, in fact, is allowing developers to determine the future of what is supposed to be an arts district — which may not have any artists or galleries left by the time the mayor's task force gets around to actually doing something.

How interesting, since [planning department] staffer Alicia Parker recently conceded that the city itself has no idea what "cultural equity" looks like. Unless the mayor suddenly gets a clue, the special sauce of Oakland she's so fond of referencing will be hella gone, as techbros sipping $8 beers and scarfing $14 fish and chips appetizers becomes the city's new flavor, and the diversity everyone loves so much will be banished to San Leandro and Antioch.

Sneaky, backhanded actions like this, which show a complete lack of integrity, are among the reasons why the creative community has been forced to defend Oakland's culture, establishing groups like Soul of Oakland and the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition. We are doing our best to #KeepOaklandCreative, but it appears the rug is being pulled out from under us, even as I type this.

Eric Arnold, Oakland

Thanks, NIMBY

I usually hate NIMBYism and how it tends to find common cause with "progressive" politics to keep rents high. The Mason has a total of 104 units. That's it. If it built any more, the neighbors would complain about height, and if it built any less, then rents would be much higher than the $2,800 for a one-bedroom. Go visit the property, a good chunk of it is walking space between 23rd and 24th [streets]. If such a big fuss is made about 104 units, how is Oakland going build housing for anyone?

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