Letters for the week of June 18-24, 2003 

Next time you fret over your latest $64 street-sweeping fine, consider how much you'd pay if you actually owned a garage instead.

"The $64 question," 7 Days, 5/21

Don't like parking fines? Put that sucker in a garage
People who are concerned about a $64 fine for parking in street-sweeping zones in Oakland might think about (gasp!) parking their cars in their own garages, instead of on the street. But then again, a garage might cost $30,000, and that costs $400 a year in property taxes. We don't even have to consider that a mortgage for that amount costs about $1,800 a year in interest. That makes paying a $64 fine occasionally a real bargain. Maybe that's why the state is in such a financial bind!
Bruce De Benedictis, Oakland

"Pete Stark: Raving, Mad, Unapologetic," Cityside, 5/28

Stark, P., speaks for me
Our family loves Congressman Stark. He makes us proud to be Americans every time we read his frank comments on Bush administration policies. Our congressman says what our family thinks. Pete Stark is extremely bright, and his analysis of the Bush White House will be proven right by history. Stark was also frank in his criticism of the Clinton White House when criticism was warranted. He is not a partisan politician; his is a voice of reason and truth.
Pete Scobel, Fremont

"Bright Lights, Small City," Cityside, 5/28

A success to the finish
This story is gratuitous city-bashing at its worst. Did [Chris] Thompson actually visit Richmond, or, like New York Times reporter Jayson Blair, did he dream it up?

His lead-in about decay, blight, poverty, despair, and squalor reads like a cheap novel but has no plot. One can find crime and blight in some part of any older Bay Area city, and Richmond is no exception. Where's the news? Richmond is the Bay Area's sixth largest city and covers a lot of ground and water, 56.1 square miles to be exact, more than San Francisco. And it has 32 miles of shoreline, more than any other city on San Francisco Bay -- with more miles of Bay Trail also completed than any other city. Where did he get the idea Richmond is small?

His story on the rehabilitation of the Ford Assembly Plant, while chock-full of anecdotes, misses the point completely. Ethan Silva's Assembly Plant Partners assembled a star-studded design and construction team that brought the first phase of the project in on time and below budget -- thus preserving a $15 million FEMA grant that was in danger of being lost. While nailing down the source of financial resources for Phase Two has been a source of frustration for both Silva and the city, a strong local developer, Simeon Properties, appears now to be committed.

Thompson is correct that city staff continually bashed Silva and recommended that the city council dump him. If that had happened, the FEMA money would have almost certainly disappeared, and the plant would still be derelict today instead of a substantially rehabilitated landmark ready for the next step. Fortunately, the city council had the vision to push on.

Even partially completed, the building is awesome! It is located in Richmond's most successful redevelopment project, Marina Bay, that has been created over the last 25 years on the site of the giant Kaiser shipyards, which produced more ships faster than any shipyard in the world -- before or since. The Ford Assembly Plant will house the visitor center of California's newest national park, Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park. Marina Bay houses some three thousand people in waterfront homes and has recently attracted technology firms, such as Dicon Fiberoptics, which Richmond stole from upscale Berkeley.

Contrary to Thompson's claim that the city of Richmond has spent $18 million, the city has spent almost nothing. All the money spent so far for construction came in a FEMA grant from Washington. If, for some reason, Silva can't finance the next phase, other developers -- who each have placed $1 million deposits -- are waiting in the wings, salivating to take this high-profile trophy project in a stunning location to the finish line.
Councilman Tom Butt, Richmond

"Shell Game," Feature, 5/28

Progress of a tortoise
Good story, but misses some important points that would have improved it greatly. What's been done on the ground for the desert tortoise in the fourteen years since it has been listed? Actually very little. Lots of paper, but little on the ground. Some habitat acquisition, but no changes to what is occurring on land that is bought for our state reptile by the feds. What has actually been closed to use? Nothing, except Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area, where vehicles only are excluded. What closures are off-highway vehicle folks upset about? A plan to ensure users stay on designated trails! Not exactly hard for reasonable people to accommodate. What have Endangered Species Act restrictions and desert tortoise listing resulted in? Some time delays for projects, some expense for monitors/mitigation, and a reduced number of desert tortoise deaths.
Thomas Egan, Helendale

Hearsay, Music, 5/28

Ain't nothing more Oakland than Tower of Power
Apparently Garrett Kamps is unaware that Tower of Power has recently released a CD titled Oakland Zone with a cover photo displaying its name on none other than the recently restored and revitalized marquee of the Fox Oakland (whose vertical sign, or "blade," is also featured). Interested parties can check the TOP web site at www.bumpcity.com (from which the CD can be purchased).
Garrett Murphy, Oakland

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