Letters for the week of February 8-14, 2006 

Richmond gives merit a try, Oakland is awash in vacancies, Fruitvale needs smart development, and Berkeley supports its Screenagers.

"Burning Richmond's Race Card,"
City of Warts, 12/7/05

Hope, but few illusions
Thank you for saying what needs to be said about Richmond. City government here has long existed solely to employ the city's unemployable and their do-nothing cronies. It gives me some hope that you see a door opening to competence regardless of color in city affairs and city employment. I think most of us are still waiting to see whether the city can recover from its self-inflicted plague of violence, ignorance, and poverty. Richmond is a beautiful place to live and we have wonderful people here who deserve far better than they have received from the city's entrenched acceptance of second-rate services paid for with top-of-the-line taxes. My family chooses to live, work, and do business in Richmond. We have hope, but few illusions.
Joan Wraxall, Richmond

"Let the Bulldozing Commence,"
City of Warts, 1/11/06

Vacancies abound
Chris Thompson had a nice run of good points in the recent City of Warts article, but he struck out when he suggested demolishing the Kaiser Convention Center. What a beautiful, historic building. Sure, it's underused (so is most of downtown Oakland, what can you do?), and who doesn't want more affordable housing? But there is plenty of housing near the lake, and any open space does a lot to ease the density. I'm sure that many landlords with units in East Lake and Grand Lake would agree: Vacancies abound.
Christine Yap, Oakland

"Ghost Town," Feature, 1/4/06

Corporation 1, entrepreneur 0
Since the Express was purchased by New Times, it has become a far better publication. Exemplary are wonderful pieces such as Chris Thompson's exposé of Yusef Bey and his Black Muslim organization and Justin Berton's scalding satirical reportage of pro-Palestinian propagandists protesting uncomprehending employees at a local tractor dealership. Because those pieces were not PC, they would have never appeared in the Express' previous incarnation.

Recently, Berkeley Daily Planet editor Becky O'Malley denigrated the Express, terming it "cowboy libertarian" and castigating its ownership by -- perish the thought -- a corporation. This inane criticism comes as little surprise, as O'Malley's stewardship has turned a much-needed Berkeley publication into simple-minded ideological excreta. While Berkeley desperately needed a newspaper that provided honest coverage reflective of its diverse populace, O'Malley has transformed the BDP into a print edition of KPFA. The paper's bias reflects that of O'Malley's one-dimensional leftist partisan stances. Correspondingly, it's no accident that the BDP should host regular contributions from the likes of Conn Hallinan, former editor of the Communist Party's People's Weekly World, who writes as if he doesn't realize that The Party Is Over, and commentary concerning the Middle East by Henry Norr, fired by the San Francisco Chronicle for his membership in such unsavory organizations as the International Solidarity Movement (notorious for hiding a terrorist leader and two soon-to-be suicide bombers).

Indeed, much-needed coverage of local events by the BDP is as identifiably biased as items in the ridiculous Bay Guardian. One just need look at the headline and the reader pretty much knows the slant of the reportage. All too frequently, O'Malley's interest in international news, adequately covered by other publications, takes priority over examinations of important local stories. A weekly cursory glance at the BDP reveals, for example, that O'Malley's obsession with demonizing Israel takes precedence over reportage of major civic events.

If good and balanced reporting is appreciated by Berkeley readership other than the PC Amen Crowd, our citizenry will invariably choose the corporately owned East Bay Express over the foolish ideological follies of the Daily Planet. If you wish to know what I mean, just pick up a copy of the BDP and see if you can stop your left knee from jerking.
Dan Spitzer, Kensington

We're not giving up
The Unity Council and Fruitvale Development Corporation are pioneers in the area of transit-oriented development. We are working in uncharted territory, and are learning as we implement the first-ever transit village in the Bay Area. When we undertook the revitalization of this key section of the Fruitvale neighborhood we knew it would not happen overnight. We pride ourselves in staying focused on the mission, which is to support the creation of a sustainable and thriving neighborhood for the families and businesses residing in Fruitvale.

It is regrettable that a few of the Fruitvale Village merchants feel they were misled or their expectations have yet to be realized. We are committed to doing everything we can to fully lease the remaining retail and commercial space by year-end. We are currently in negotiations with three possible tenants, which if successful will bring us much closer to achieving this goal.

One lesson we've learned is that we should have built more housing units in the first phase of Fruitvale. With the completion of the next phase and four hundred residential units, we expect a necessary infusion of additional patrons for the businesses. We know the solutions will take time, as they do with any new retail/commercial development. I am confident all the pieces of the Fruitvale vision will come together. We look forward to improving the retail situation sooner rather than later.

The Unity Council, which is so much more than the Transit Village, remains committed to supporting the economic, spiritual, cultural, and physical growth of Fruitvale. I know its future as a vibrant, multiethnic community will become stronger and more successful every year.
Gilda Gonzales, CEO, Unity Council & FDC, Oakland

Raider deal no. 2
It is not surprising that the Fruitvale Village is so dead. To thrive, a transit node development needs many nearby residents walking through with money in their pockets. Fruitvale had the opportunity for those potential customers when a respected San Francisco developer wanted to convert the nearby vacant Montgomery Ward building into 520 residential units. But [City Council President Ignacio] De La Fuente had a vendetta against "preservationists" and put a stop to that. He was determined that "that building is coming down" and recruited the school district to propose an elementary school on its site, which is located on the most dangerous arterial in the county. As it was being demolished, one school board member proudly proclaimed it was Raider deal number 2! The cost to the district was $55 million, and most elementary schools only cost $15 million. The Unity Council was in favor of the housing, but they had to keep quiet because they knew it was dangerous to come between a man and his vendetta.
Joyce Roy, Oakland

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