Letters for the week of December 30-January 5 

Readers sound off on the best movies of the year, Oakland's proposed affordable housing fee, and voting in Hayward

Page 5 of 6

Garry Ovalbach, Oakland

The Lack of Toilets Impacts Everyone

This is not only a problem for homeless folks; it is a problem for visitors to the city as well. We are all made to feel like criminals for needing to use a restroom in Berkeley! This is one of the insidious ways American culture tolerates a class distinction — some people have the right of access to safe and decent toilet facilities, while others do not.

Toileting is a basic human right, and by the way, no one should have to ask permission to do it, ever. Berkeley is the worst for finding some place you can use a toilet without spending money for the "privilege." Through its negligence of this issue, Berkeley government puts the business community, unprepared visitors, and homeless people in opposition, all so senselessly, all being pawns in this serious cultural dysfunction.

Come on, Berkeley, really, fix this problem. The models are out there; other cities have found ways!

Gay Wiseman, Dutch Flat, California


"Vertiginous Viewing," Movie Review (Carol, 12/9

You're Wrong

Wow, what a misguided, miss-the-point review! As just a film, Carol is a beautiful example of setting a scene and a mood, of shots and angles and pacing, film and color; as a story, it's a nuanced portrayal of desire, all the stronger through its restraint. It's brilliantly written, acted, and directed.

Anne North, San Francisco


"Affordable Housing on Public Land," Opinion, 11/25

Unbalanced Rationale

Regarding the East 12th Street parcel, I agree that the city completely bungled the development process of surplus public land. Rightly so, they pulled back on the previous UrbanCore [Development] proposal. I also agree that affordable housing needs to be addressed in any potential development or proposal opportunity on Oakland public land (check out SPUR's [September 2015] smart and informed recommendation for future downtown Oakland development at SPUR.org, entitled "A Downtown for Everyone"). That said, while I get the E 12th Coalition's position, I don't agree with their unbalanced rationale presented in this opinion piece.

"Every few months, news of another major, market-rate high-rise development coming into Oakland makes headlines..." Yes, they may make headlines, but the fact is none of them have broken ground. There are zero construction cranes. Developers are interested, the city has welcomed and approved them, but none of them have secured financing. If that were the case, we'd see the cranes we see in San Francisco, San Jose, and all the cities up and down the West Coast ... but nothing. So the fear of displacement because of that is unfounded. It's happening in spite of that.

"The developers behind the new Uber headquarters are planning two acres of high-rise housing, retail, and office space on a parcel at 21st Street and Telegraph Avenue." Sure, but they are partnering with local developer Alan Dones, an Oakland native who is African American and whose original plan was to include 15 percent of the housing to be affordable or low income. But now that Lane Partners (Uber developers) are on board, [Dones told the San Francisco Business Times] "that percentage could increase now that Lane Partners is in the picture. Dones added that the developers would search for state grants and new market tax credits to help pay for more affordable housing."

E 12th Coalition also begins with, "What would it look like if the City of Oakland worked not just with corporate developers, but with neighborhood residents to determine what should be built on our precious public land in Oakland?" Well, according to the city website, they are reaching out to community stakeholders: www2.OaklandNet.com/PlanDowntownOakland.

E 12th Coalition also says, "The City of Oakland is selecting a developer for the parcel at 1911 Telegraph, hoping to see a high-rise, mixed-used development and a hotel." Well, the good news is that they have narrowed the short list to three developers that all include an affordable housing component. (See BizJournals.com, "Oakland Reveals Top Choice Developer for Uptown Mixed-Use Site Near Uber," Nov. 20, 2015). One of the developers is Bridge Housing, which has a great track record of building affordable housing in Oakland (see BridgeHouseing.com/properties).

Going back to the East 12th Street parcel, the E 12th Coalition definitely presents a proposal worthy of consideration. But it should only be judged on the merits of what it can do to address the affordability crisis, how it can provide what the community really wants, while balancing the overall housing density needs of downtown Oakland and the region (see the SPUR report). It should not be judged by the unbalanced criteria presented in the E 12th Coalition opinion piece. UrbanCore is also coming back with a revised proposal that, in my opinion, addresses these criteria (see BCT4Oakland.com).

I'm not a newcomer to Oakland. And although I've lived in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Los Angeles, I have lived in Oakland for the better part of my fifty years. I love this town, and it's home. I like the "new" vibrancy Oakland now has, like a city should. I don't want it to be stifled. I get the challenge and role The Town has in meeting the housing and economic demands of the region while maintaining its historical and cultural diversity. But I'm weary of the consistent tactics evident in this opinion piece that I see as counterproductive to the ongoing debate.

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