Letters for the week of May 24-30, 2006 

Understand the context at Cafe Van Kleef. Understand the poignancy of life with Fragile X. Understand the motivation for Asian-American ball. Understand the tragedy of Asian-American ball.

"The Party's Over?" Bottom Feeder, 4/19

Hip and safe too
I was heartened to read your mostly balanced piece on Cafe Van Kleef. However, as a member of the "consortium" that now owns 1621 Telegraph Avenue where Peter Van Kleef holds a 25-year lease, I'd like to address a couple of misunderstandings in your article.

As much as I'd love to be a member consortium, I'm afraid that we, the new owners, are simply five Oakland architects and engineers who are now working in the same building as Peter. We are not absentee landlords investing in faraway real estate.

As for our plans to commandeer the building's basement, the previous owner had already ousted Peter from much of the space. In fact, his lease reflects that. And the "mezzanine" above Cafe Van Kleef is not even legally accessible. Peter uses a ladder to get to it.

I can appreciate Peter's desire to expand into the space next door, especially because the bar has only one exit. That's worrisome with large crowds coming to listen to live music. However, to give Peter the space would mean eviction for the current tenant, and Parrott's Beauty Salon has been serving the African-American community here for nearly two decades.

I was happy to read that Peter has applied for a cabaret license from the city. As both citizens and landlords, we want everyone to comply with the city's rules and regulations. As occupants who share the premises with Peter, we want to be sure that electrical wiring, garbage disposal, and other such health and safety issues are not in violation of city codes.

I'm glad that Peter, by order of Oakland's fire marshal, has removed the stacks of flammable paint cans and paint thinner he'd been storing in the basement. That makes all of us safer, including Peter's customers.

Peter should be proud of his role in the "hipsterization of uptown Oakland," as your article phrased it. We, the new owners, think Cafe Van Kleef is cool, too. A future in compliance with city ordinances designed to protect us will ensure a safe and happier future for both building tenants and café patrons alike.
Kathleen Rousseau, Oakland
partner, RPR Architects

"The Fragile Ones," Feature, 4/19

Heartfelt thanks
Thank you for such a well-informed and well-written article about Fragile X. As parents of two children affected by Fragile X, boys eighteen and sixteen, I feel that you captured the poignancy of all our lives. I'm the former president of the Northern California Fragile X Association, and my husband, John Harrigan, is the former president of the board of directors of the National Fragile X Foundation. In those roles, and as parents, I want to thank you for your careful research, your thorough coverage of all the conditions the mutation of the gene can cause, and for taking the time to understand both the genetics and the effects of the syndrome. Most articles we've read or contributed to fail to provide those attributes and leave their readers with an inaccurate picture of Fragile X.

I wish I could pick up the San Francisco Chronicle, Contra Costa Times, or New York Times that are sitting in my kitchen and be assured that a similar article on any medical or genetic condition would impart such an intelligent and informed snapshot. Thank you for your clear and detailed focus.
Stephanie Jacob, Pleasant Hill

"Jumping Through Hoops," Cityside, 4/19

Asian-American ball stems from discrimination against Asians
Painting Asian-American basketball leagues as "exclusionary, to be sure," woefully ignores the seventy-year history of such leagues and why they were created in the first place. In the 1930s, Japanese Americans formed basketball leagues for themselves after being excluded from other public leagues. During World War II, when 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were taken from their homes and sent to concentration camps in their own country, basketball remained an activity they were able to enjoy, despite living behind barbed wire.

These basketball leagues, which have expanded to include all Asian-Pacific Islanders, continue to this day as a way of creating community, building friendships, and maintaining cultural ties. There is no need to apologize for their existence, as the author seems intent on doing.

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