Letters for November 26 

Readers sound off on our election coverage, the loss of our crime column, and mountain bikers.

"This Election Is About Big Oil," News, 10/29

Opinions Versus Journalism

Wow, is this supposed to be an opinion piece or does Gammon really call this journalism? So much for fair and impartial reporting. Given the tone of this piece it is clear that there are many people on the public side of the Chevron-Richmond conflict who have not learned much about how to search out real facts, assess them for credibility, use them for negotiation, weigh them against prevailing law, and then be big enough to settle for compromises that work for both sides. That's a shame, since both sides stand to win. Richmond stands to win jobs and revenue from Chevron. Chevron stands to win continued operations in a legal and peaceful atmosphere. I have watched this conflict escalate over the past years and have seen mostly unreasonableness from the more radical side of the Richmond supporters. I have seen mostly workable reasonableness from those in the city who understand the law and business negotiations. I have seen extreme hard work by Chevron to meet the law and the needs of the city. It is too bad opinion pieces like this, not real journalism, continue to inflame the debate, and perpetuate incorrect facts.

John MacDonald, San Ramon

"Life of the Party," Apprehension, 10/29

We'll Miss You

Thank you Anneli for a great column which often illustrates the social and cultural context of local crime issues. We will miss your reporting. Good luck!

Laura Menard, Berkeley

She Goes, I Go

Rufus's crime column is the best thing in the Express and about the only non-PC feature therein. If you can't make room in your schedule for her, I can't make room in mine for you.

Michael Hardesty, Oakland

"Kaplan, Bates, deHaan, and Roy, Plus No on 8," News, 10/29

Google Your Facts

I hope that the Express editorial staff will rethink its reflexive and often poorly informed coverage of Berkeley historic preservation issues in light of the decisive defeat of Measure LL at the polls on November 4.

Nearly 21,000 Berkeley voters — a nearly 5,000 vote majority — said no to a severely weakened landmarks ordinance and voted to keep the current ordinance intact. Far from being a small minority, as frequently mischaracterized by the Express, Berkeley preservationists had a decisive majority of voters on their side this time.

One also hopes that newspapers will base their editorial recommendations on facts, not incuriously repeat false claims of the side they favor.

For example, in its endorsements section, the Express stated "Berkeley now has more historical landmarks than San Francisco and San Jose combined." Five minutes of Internet searching confirms that San Jose has at least 152 designated landmarks, and San Francisco at least 264, for a combined total of 416 landmarks. Berkeley has just a few more than 300.

And while most Berkeley landmarks are single structures, many of the San Francisco and San Jose "landmarks" are actually much larger historic districts, some encompassing scores of separate historic buildings over several square blocks within single "landmark" designations. 

The same issue of the Express also claimed, "For years, preservationists used the landmarks law to curtail development in the city." In fact, very few development proposals in Berkeley involve historic properties or result in landmark controversies.  

Literally dozens of infill housing and other developments — some quite large — have been approved and built in Berkeley in the past couple of decades without any preservation dispute whatsoever. And the preservation community has actively supported some key new developments where high-quality infill buildings would improve the Berkeley streetscape.

In sum, historic preservation in Berkeley is reasonable, mainstream, not an obstacle to intelligent and thoughtful development, and is in keeping with the views and values of the majority of Berkeley's voters, as expressed on Measure LL.

Steven Finacom, Berkeley

"Fighting for Their Right to Bike," Feature, 10/29

A Victory for All

I want to express my views of the article recently written by Nate Seltenrich about the current Measure WW. As a mountain biker who has lived in the East Bay for the past two-plus years, I care deeply about equal access to our park lands.

Getting measure WW passed is important, and I for one will be voting yes next week. Working with the park district in gaining more access to the desirable single-track trails is in every user's interest. Opposing the measure will only alienate the goodwill the mountain bike community has established over the last twenty years with the district and other park users. Certainly the district can do better with trail access to all users, but we as a group need to work with them to achieve future success.

I look forward to raising my kids in the East Bay, and having my entire family enjoy and utilize our local district parks for years to come.

Passing Measure WW is just the next step in achieving that goal.

Brad Polvorosa, Piedmont

Bicyclists Support WW

As a coach of a high school cycling club that rides in many of the East Bay Regional Parks, I am strongly in support of Measure WW and will continue, as EBRPD Trail Planner Jim Townsend urged in the article, to work with the park district to develop increased cycling opportunities within the existing parks. The article correctly points out that the "magic ingredient" to responsible trail planning is participation by all interested parties, and the City of Oakland should be commended for its formation of the Joaquin Miller Working Group, on which I served for a number of years as a representative of cycling interests. The EBRPD needs to look very closely at how cyclists and other trail users are able to share the trails in the relatively small Joaquin Miller Park and apply similar tactics to encourage safe and respectful use of the trails within the EBRPD's lands.

It is time that all trail users learn to work together to share the wonderful natural lands that are within our region. While mountain bikers might be relative "latecomers" as EBRPD Board President Ayn Weiskamp states, the elected board needs to understand that many of us have been riding within the parks for twenty-plus years and that cyclists are incredibly active stewards of lands — contributing hundreds of hours of volunteer time to trail repair and education and helping kids discover nature and improve their physical fitness by getting outdoors on their bicycles. Rational cyclists are supporting Measure WW and look forward to working with an elected EBRPD Board of Directors that is reasonable and willing to be educated regarding how bicycle access can be safely and responsibly incorporated into both existing and future park lands.

Austin McInerny, Berkeley

Trails Are for Everyone

I agree that there is an unequal treatment of trail users. Bike riders in the East Bay Park system are unfairly characterized as malcontents. Many of the bike riders I know are courteous and respectful, yet a few bad apples continue to ruin it for everyone. There are many stories of hikers harassing bikers on the trails, yet no one hears about that. It should be understood that the trails are for everyone, not just hikers and equestrians. I think they should allow more single-track use by mountain bike riders, and an alternate day system sounds like a good place to start.

Like all people who enjoy the parks, no one wants to be on a fire road, and some of the greatest areas to ride are the single-tracks. I cannot see the need to provide tax money to the parks without an agreement in place for equal use prior to passing the measure.

Shem Stygar, San Ramon

We Can't All Get Along

As someone who grew up riding dirt bikes in the East Bay hills, I can tell you that there will never be a way to have riders, hikers, and equestrians simply getting along on the trails. There are way too many people out there these days and the three things just don't mix physically. Bikes are fast and loud, horses get spooked, and hikers are busy looking at trees and birds. They will always get in each other's way. A friend and I were on a bike ride sometime ago when a guy who must have been eighty years old got out in front of us and began yelling that we were "Worthless Swine!" while attempting to grab my friend's handlebars. We were probably moving at less than one mile per hour on an uphill grade with more than enough room on the trail for everyone. It was complete road rage in Tilden Park. We couldn't believe it. I also know guys who ride downhill bikes and have smashed around corners only to have people literally jumping out of their way. Another time I was standing on the side of a trail in Redwood with my bike leaning against a rock, waiting for my wife, when an elderly man's horse noticed me, spooked, then reared and fell down just about crushing the guy and nearly falling into a ravine only to then stand back up as if nothing had happened. That shit was horrifying to watch.

A surefire way that the park folks can make everyone happy is to spend some time and some of this newly acquired space on dedicated MTB trails. And make them good! Get local riders together, and let them design/make the trails that will give them the technical challenge and the space they're looking for. Equestrians and hikers will be fine together so long as the hikers keep their dogs under control. Then everyone can get along from a distance.

Justin Page, Richmond

They're Cry Babies

Conflicts between bikers and other park users are rare, and I say that as a runner, but this anti-WW group really amounts to a political temper tantrum. We all enjoy the parks and we'll figure out how to use the new land in a way that's fair to everyone. I showed up to an EBRPD meeting about a year ago because I didn't think Selby should be opened to bikes and I was impressed that there was a bike advocacy group — the Bicycle Trails Council, which in this article wisely points out that no land means no trails. In the specific case of Selby I disagreed with the group and its representative, but he was prepared with facts, and as I recall at that meeting other trails were opened for consideration. A yes on WW is good for mountain bikers and everyone else.

Michael Caton, Oakland

We Can All Get Along

It's important to be clear about what it is that cyclists want from the EBRPD. No one is asking to ride "where ever they want" as Kulas suggests. Nor is anyone trying to "destroy everything." Inflammatory exaggerations only make one sound unnecessarily inflammatory.

Trails are merely passages through beautiful, natural spaces. Just like hikers, dog walkers, and equestrians, cyclists are only interested in passing through such beautiful spaces. Just a few hours from the East Bay, 26-acre Annadel State Park in Sonoma County provides a great example of the potential for a shared narrow trail experience. On any given day, hikers, equestrians, and cyclists trade greetings as they pass one another safely on narrow and wide trails alike.

Currently in the EBRPD system, cyclists have no opportunity to enjoy the majority of these trails despite being a significant portion of the audience/user population. On the few trails that cyclists can access, incidents of conflicts have been sparse at best. To me, this suggests that more trails can indeed be shared by all willing users, but it requires that they treat each other with civility in the process.

Josh Church, Oakland

Treat Them Like Dirt

Better East Bay Parks, a mountain biking organization, opposed Measure WW because the East Bay Regional Park District "has failed to properly manage and provide access to its existing land, especially for mountain bikers." "Mountain bikers are treated as second-class citizens," according to spokesperson Ted Stroll.

As a 49-year-old lifelong hiker in the Santa Cruz and Diablo Range parks and mountains, I have just a couple of comments. One, mountain bikers as a group deserve to be treated as second-class citizens. I've never been nearly run over and seriously injured by any hiker or equestrian, going 20 or 30 miles an hour down a narrow mountain trail, as has happened to me numerous times from mountain bikers. Two, I hope that Better East Bay Parks, and mountain bikers that support it, put their money where their mouths are and stop using the parks in the East Bay; if they oppose funding for parks, they have forfeited their right to use them. Anything less would be hypocritical; do the rest of us a favor and stay home, or go somewhere else.

Larry Jensen, Oakland

Editor's Note

Voters approved Measure WW on November 4.

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