Letters for January 2, 2008 

Readers sound off about the proposed Emerald Views condominium on the site of historic Schilling Gardens

"A Wasted Opportunity," Cityside, 12/5

It's Too Late Once the Garden is Gone

Not only the "Schilling Gardens," but the adjacent historic properties, the Regillus and the Bechtel Building, are also endangered.

The southern side of the Bechtel and the western side of the Regillus have regal luxury units facing the garden. Currently, part of the value of these occupied, tax-generating units lies in their unobstructed views of the garden, and much of the city to the south and the west.

There is also the built-in "green" advantage of solar heat and sunlight that enters these buildings during the day. The construction of a 42-story building adjacent to these luxury buildings will devalue facing units' desirability by destroying the view and the solar advantages. The contemplation of new "green" buildings should be balanced against the loss of existing "green" technologies in older buildings. Tenants at the Regillus and the Bechtel will be forced to use more electricity for lighting and more artificial heat, contributing to the generation of greenhouse gases, if this proposed 42-story high-rise is constructed.

Another consideration is the tax revenue actually coming into the city coffers from the Bechtel and the Regillus that likely will be lost once construction begins; this loss will be permanent for reasons already stated. Underscoring this point is the fact that the Regillus already has one owner looking to sell. Is this merely coincidence or is it prescient timing?

If the city is really concerned about the tax revenue potential of 375 new luxury condominiums, it should also evaluate the loss of tax revenues from the adjacent existing condominiums. What sort of guarantee is the developer providing that these new luxury condos will sell in the questionable real estate market we currently have? The last "luxury" condominium project forced on this neighborhood was the one at 14th and Jackson. The same gentrification, "eyes on the street," and tax revenue arguments were used to sway the Planning Commission to give the green light to this project. We now have a plastic-wrapped eyesore reaching eight stories into the Oakland skyline, absolutely no tax revenue, and a bank holding the bag on the defaulted loan. There is no sign that this "blight" will be corrected any time soon.

The reputations of the developer for Emerald Views, the involved real estate company, lobbyist Joe O'Donoghue, Roy Guinnane, and others are all questionable. South of Market in San Francisco was ravaged by the same, excepting the East Bay players. These speculators are pushing this 42-story condominium project down the throat of an unwilling community that deserves much better.

The prospect of another 14th-and-Jackson-type building, plastic-covered and jutting 42-stories into the sky, as a replacement for the historic Schilling Gardens is hardly my idea of either gentrification or of neighborhood improvement. The gamble of losing existing tax revenue for the speculation that people will eventually occupy this 42-story building is also risky. We can correct this folly now, but it will be nearly impossible once the approval goes through and the developer breaks ground.

Anne Wellington, Oakland

Oppose In-Fill and You Support Sprawl

I am fully in favor of this project. To me it comes down to this: Where do we want people to live? In the suburbs where homes take over valuable farmland and habitat for birds and other animals or in cities? Everyone opposed to projects like this is, in effect, in favor of more sprawl.

Kevin Brower, Oakland

NIMBY in Disguise

And ... there are also citizens who support the development. As for guarantees, there are none no matter where a developer chooses to build. Strange, one never hears of protecting "historical properties" when it comes to developments in EAST Oakland. I can only assume the income of the nearby neighbors may have something to do with the so-called "need to preserve Schilling Gardens." Could this be the same old NIMBY in disguise?

Allene Warren, Oakland

"The Long Retirement," Music, 12/5

We Care

An entire article about the Rubinoos without any mention of their best song? "Rock and Roll Is Dead" with the follow-up line "... and we don't care" was their greatest moment by far.

John Nunes, Oakland

"You're Getting Warmer," Feature, 12/5

You're Getting Warmer, Too

I greatly appreciate the Express running the article "You're Getting Warmer" by Bill McKibben. It represents the great importance that a paper like your own places on news that is uncomfortable but vital like the state of global warming. Keep going!

Bill Say, San Rafael

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