Letters for the week of August 11-17, 2004 

Residents of the Chateau respond, reservations about Vitamin D deficiency, still more reactions to our media piece, and Seattle's approach to bulky trash.

"Maison des Animaux," Bottom Feeder, 7/14

We're listening
As a Cal student currently living at the Chateau, I would like to point out our house's determined commitment to maintain an affordable housing option for students, provide a setting for study, and to be a part of the community in a more open way than is offered by the institutionalism of the dorms or the social atomization of an apartment. That said, we recognize that there is much we can do to be better neighbors and provide a more ideal study environment.

To those ends, over the past few months, we have enacted a sweeping series of reforms, including a system of noise restrictions enforced by a firm system of fines; renovations to our carriage house to create a study area insulated from noise; and outreach efforts aimed at establishing a dialogue with our neighbors and the surrounding community.

As someone who shares George Lewinski's desire for a quiet life, I would like to say our house is a place where any student can indeed find that, and all of our members are committed to living with our neighbors as a mutually respectful community.
Ian Latta, Chateau board representative, USCA board of directors

Solving the wrong problem
Besides using an overly sensational tagline, you neglected a portion of the co-op's history which is equally as important as its troubles. As a publication whose primary focus is on local music, why didn't you investigate how many bands got a start playing at Le Chateau and co-ops in general? Additionally, the Chateau's albeit rundown exterior is not nearly the eyesore or danger that People's Park is. For more than thirty years, three acres of university-owned land has sat vacant (just two blocks down from Chateau and its neighbors) while homeless people squat openly and do drugs in the park. What kind of park is it when most students don't even use it? UC Berkeley can't afford to shut down existing housing given the shortage and the rising cost of tuition that makes the USCA so appealing. Chateau's neighbors need to understand that they are essentially living within a college. For this situation to work, compromise is needed on both sides. And the university needs to find a solution once and for all for the park.
Rachel Smith, Berkeley

Another world
Regarding your article about the housing co-op: I lived in the co-ops during WWII. We were all from working-class families, in many cases the first members of our families to go to college. Wild parties and disturbing our neighbors didn't happen. We were all too poor and hardworking -- desperate to make it.

We were one of the few -- maybe the only -- housing groups that had black students in those days, and we welcomed Japanese-American students when they got out of the US concentration camps. What a sad, sad difference between that time and this.
Nancy Ward, Berkeley

"The Vitamin D Deficiency," Letters, 7/14

Vitamins or surgery?
William B. Grant, Ph.D, offers dangerous advice when he encourages readers to keep tanning in order to avoid Vitamin D deficiency. He claims that melanoma strikes those with a history of frequent sunburns, fair skin, freckles, numerous moles, a poor diet, and heavy alcohol use. The truth is that anyone is at risk of skin cancer these days as the environment becomes more and more degraded.

Two of my friends developed melanoma -- both women in their thirties with dark skin that doesn't burn, no freckles, few moles, and a healthy diet and lifestyle. If readers are worried about a Vitamin D deficiency (which generally affects dark skinned people of color), take a vitamin supplement. It's a lot easier than having a big chunk of your flesh carved out.
Stacy Taylor, El Cerrito

"Standing Up to the Waltons," Cityside, 7/14

The process does work
Wal-Mart is a brand destination that is not likely to go away. They know that, and eventually people in the class-action suit will appreciate their staying power as an unusually effective corporation. So what happens? Likely, as on Wall Street, Wal-Mart will go through initial proceedings and then settle.

What is gained? Some compensation for litigants. Wal-Mart will pay for litigants' attorney expenses. And some corrective measures will be taken to eradicate the old boys' work culture. And all in all, that is good, right?

I liked the care taken by the writer. I look forward to following the story.
Hank Maiden, Sequim, Washington

"Rethinking the Media Monopoly," Feature, 7/7

Actually, book review
Cover story or book review? While I appreciated Will Harper's review of Ben Bagdikian's new, or newly revised, book, Mr. Harper falls far short of answering the question posed in the headline, "Has shrinking ownership of mass news outlets really limited our choices?" This was a perfect opportunity to delve into a very important social quandary. Instead Mr. Harper did what he accused Mr. Bagdikian of doing, that being simply repeating what others have said and not researching the issue in question.

I am left still wondering and researching for myself what these consolidations have done to our social conscience and our very democracy. Maybe Mr. Harper should write book reviews, as he did a very thorough job of reviewing this one, and perhaps the Express should assign an investigative reporter to address a very real issue that really is deserving of a cover story.
Eric Dziedzic, Oakland

How much proof do you need?
Will Harper's piece on the so-called Media Monopoly was great -- well researched and fearless -- but the resulting letters to the Express may have done an even better job of proving his point than the article itself.


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