Letters for the Week of May 9, 2012 

Readers sound off on recycling, Fair Trade USA, and West Berkeley's live-work communities.

"Recycling's Dirty Little Secret," Feature, 4/25

Cookies for Compost Bins?

I'm writing to appreciate the visibility raised by the article re: no compost bins at multi-family homes, aka the apartment buildings where I've lived. My partner and I put our food scraps into three big yogurt containers we keep in the freezer. When the containers are full, one of us takes them over to Whole Foods and plops our frozen food waste into the outside eating area bins. This has been going on for almost two years. Whole Foods doesn't seem to care, but, I mean, I take my compost to Whole Foods.

Sure, we investigated getting bins for our building, and the process was expensive and annoying and nobody on the waste-getting seemed particularly eager or able to support getting a building on board. Okay, I hear the barriers raised in the article, and, at the same time, excuse me while I roll my eyes far enough back in my head that I don't even have to roll them: A) Building people are not inherently too opaque to get into composting just because they're building people. (Also, what planet do people live on where landlords would take initiative on this? I have never lived on that planet, ever.) B) This is the Bay Area: There are probably several (gazillion) green dork entrepreneurial creative types who could pop out stink- and rodent-proof cheapo bin prototype systems for us bigger building folks if somebody gave them some cookies and framed it as a fun challenge.

I would straight up make those cookies.

Emily Cohen, Oakland

"The Battle Over Live-Work Communities," Eco Watch, 4/25

Unfair and Inaccurate

For all its support of the local culinary and retail economy, one might expect the East Bay Express to understand the value of retaining affordable habitat for working artists and good jobs in manufacturing and industry for working people — lynchpins of the 99 Percent. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.

In this article by co-editor Robert Gammon, when measured against the Express' ongoing support of Occupy goals, the article's editorial perspective is not only mystifying in the abstract but destructive of the on-the-ground societal equity the paper purports to champion.

In this latest installment of his ongoing campaign in support of a developer's plans to install incompatible residents into West Berkeley's industrial and artistic employment and productions zones, Mr. Gammon continues a pattern of critical factual omission, unchallenged assertions, and mischaracterization of issues and WEBAIC positions that diminish the article's informative value and the Express' reputation for fair and accurate reporting.

The Larger Context: Equity & Sustainability:  In the effort to create a sustainable way for human beings to live in harmony with the Earth's natural systems and combat climate change, WEBAIC has always supported the creation of more housing in cities. In the urgent push for this policy, some proponents have unfortunately failed to take a thoughtful, comprehensive view and seek housing anywhere without concern for consequences. WEBAIC supports appropriate densification of housing along transit corridors and residential neighborhoods, but putting housing in industrial zones is destructive of good jobs for working people, important local economic activity, and environmental sustainability.

With almost 7,000 family-wage jobs (the major source of jobs for the most disadvantaged workers — those without a college degree) in over 300 industrial companies in West Berkeley, the siting of housing in the industrial zones is not only unnecessary but destructive of regional equity, environmental sustainability, and a thriving local economy responsible for our bread, beer, bikes, and too many important goods and services to possibly name here.

The Development: Doug Herst is seeking to turn his Peerless factory site into a mixed-use development. The site straddles West Berkeley's Mixed Use Light Industrial Zone (that doesn't allow residential housing) and Mixed Use Residential Zone (that does). WEBAIC applauds Mr. Herst's intention to bring jobs and housing to Berkeley.  We do not applaud his intention to bust Berkeley's zoning boundaries by putting residences into Berkeley's largest industrial zone, an area created to be free from incompatible residences in order to assure a modest amount of land in the city reserved for sustainably making, recycling, distributing, and repairing the goods we use as a society.  Mr. Herst presently owns property on his development site zoned for housing, yet persists in attempting to set the destructive precedent of opening up the modest 4 percent of Berkeley's land base reserved for industry and arts production to residents. WEBAIC applauds Mr. Herst's stated intention to host industry and artist studios, but placing traditional residences in industrial zones has been consistently shown, from SOMA to SOHO, to inflate property values and create conflicts leading to displacement of the very uses and jobs Mr. Herst claims to support.

Express Article Statements and WEBAIC Responses: Clarification of two core misstatements in Mr. Gammon's article: WEBAIC has never opposed or "blocked" green-tech expansion in West Berkeley — the opposite is true.

WEBAIC has never "blocked" housing on Master Use Permit development sites. In fact, we have supported the creation of hundreds of residential units on these sites on land where housing is presently allowed.

Express: "Despite the protestations of some local residents and businesses, the council opened portions of West Berkeley to companies involved in research and development — a move that recognized that the economy is shifting toward green-collar jobs."

WEBAIC Response: WEBAIC was key to creating the policies and compromises allowing hundreds of thousands of existing square feet of space (and millions of build able square feet) to be utilized for R&D. There is no requirement this space accommodate R&D, or that R&D be green tech — the mayor has stated it will likely be biotech. WEBAIC is the West Berkeley organization with the most numerous companies and jobs in green-collar fields. The City of Berkeley Green Collar Jobs Study concluded that preserving affordable, industrially zoned land, free from incompatible uses such as housing, was the most important requirement for green-collar jobs.


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