Letters for September 9 

Readers sound off on the BART strike, Café Gratitude, and density in downtown Berkeley.

Page 2 of 4

I feel like I'm in one of those sci-fi movies where we are standing around knowing full well that some of us are evil aliens in disguise (anti-environmentalists) while the rest of us are the good guys (truly green). To compound the problem, it may be that the aliens, like the rest of us, think they are truly green as well.

After watching and arguing a couple days ago with a Livable Berkeley ideologue who was spending her day shadowing a petition gatherer (because "I have to!"), I began to wonder if I was wrong: do the density advocates really have "green" on their side? Do they really have a plan so superior for the city that the mindless unquestioning support of zombie girl is really justified?

All it took was about an hour reading recent studies on the environmental and health impacts of urban density development provided in major journals by the UC Berkeley Digital Library (I have access as Berkeley staff, but anyone can read these at a UC library terminal) to get the general picture. The several studies I read that summarize and evaluate hundreds of other studies are very clear on a couple of points:1) among urban planners, there is *no* agreed upon definition of density2) the myriad of studies are completely inconclusive as to the impact of greater density on either the ecological footprint or the well-being of citizens.

Also, almost all "studies" of urban density, these reports conclude, are theoretical rather than empirical. That is, they do not study the actual effects of density development after implementation.

I think just about any educated person reading a few of these studies would understand that there is no firm ground at all for making environmental or livability claims one way or another based on planning for urban density — despite the adoption of it as a holy grail over the last few decades by cities and planning professionals (and by shadow girl). The studies do not bear out any claims on any side, no matter how widespread the claims may be.

Here in Berkeley we will not begin to settle the environmental controversy over density development. Neither side has a green claim. We'd do better to cut to the chase and leave ourselves to the issues we have some real understanding of: what we want the city to look and feel like, how we want the downtown to function for us.

It's really unfortunate that the discussion got so hijacked by this green herring.

Rob Weinberg, Berkeley

"Insider's Guide," 8/19

How Could You Forget Us?

Shockingly absent from your Insider's Guide to Fruitvale is Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, a six-acre City of Oakland park — Oakland's most important historic site — with thriving youth programs, lavish multimedia exhibits about Fruitvale history (a history which, indeed started thousands of years before the founding of St. Elizabeth's, as stated in the Express), Oakland's largest native plant garden, a community garden studied by the UC Botanical Garden for the wealth of its species and ethnobotanical interest, a historic house on the National Register that opens its doors as a community center for youth and families today, 3-D outdoor exhibits framed by Ohlone poetry about life on the vast cattle ranch that once covered the East Bay, a huge archive of oral history interviews (the Faces of Fruitvale project), a play structure with a giant grizzly bear and cub, etc. etc. etc. How is it that you missed a Fruitvale landmark and an Oakland cultural resource of such importance? It is painful to the community, staff, and grassroots nonprofit who have worked so hard for so long — since the 1970s — to create this amazing place. The huge CA State Landmarks sign on the 580 freeway tells you we are here! Our vision: Every Human Being Makes History.

Holly Alonso, Executive Director, Peralta Hacienda Historical Park

"The Father of Proposition 8," Feature, 8/12

No Surprises

My first reaction upon reading this biased article was, what would you expect? Any newly installed bishop of Oakland, not matter whom, would be an opponent of gay and lesbian marriage. After all, as Catholics we have believed for centuries that marriage is a Holy Sacrament (between a man and woman). The fact that the Catholic Church, Mormons, and Evangelicals were behind Prop. 8 has been well published. It's also apparently true that the Bishop made some "victory" statements that he should not have, and as the article mentioned he indicated remorse. However, labeling him as the most conservative Bishop imaginable is inappropriate. Catholic positions on the poor, education, social justice, death penalty, and war are actually liberal. I pray that the people in East Bay, especially the politicians, adopt a more rounded viewpoint than presented in this article.

Dan Conaty, San Diego

A Slippery Slope to Oblivion

It's quite obvious from the get go that you support "gay marriage" even if it's against the will of most of the people of this state. I remember when a small handful of people dressed in black robes trashed Prop. 187, which denied medical treatment to illegal aliens and being forced against our will to pay through our tax dollars for their health care. I would like you to tell me why I'm compelled to pay for their medical bills? I think that those people from those countries should be encouraged to revolt against their country so that they have no reason to come to this country in the first place, thereby saving taxpayers billions of dollars here. I just don't think that a few judges in the state government have the right to tell us to go to hell when we approve of ballot initiatives passed by the majority of the people here. If this is allowed to continue, than we will slide down a slippery slope to oblivion. People here voted to stop "gay marriage" because they didn't want this kind of behavior exposed to their children, (i.e. showing "gay weddings on TV and seeing live churches showing two men or two women exchanging "nuptials"), which is in your way of thinking, we have no right to do so. It has been proven beyond a shadow of a (through all the available evidence) doubt that there is NOT a "gay gene," this is a lifestyle that is a choice, people who want to be "gay" or "lesbian" is their business, all I ask them to do is to keep quiet about their sexual choice i.e., not to have "gay parades" as you never see anyone having "straight parades." To have them tell me it's too much to ask is despicable to say the least and force us to accept their lifestyle only enhances hatred for them and encourages right-wing groups to commit violence against them. This country will never survive with an "anything goes"-type society as it caused the fall of the Roman Empire, who also permitted "gay marriage" there also.

Greg Sullivan, Hayward

Write About the Good Things

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