Letters for the Week of October 31, 2012 

Readers sound off on the Oakland Zoo, sex trafficking, Richmond's soda tax, and more.

Page 7 of 10

Backed by many environmental organizations, Measure A1 protects local wildlife and provides sanctuary for rescued and endangered species. A1 is for all of us in Alameda County who have a true wild and green heart.

Amy Gotliffe, Oakland

The Park Is Priceless

I didn't know Knowland Park was more than just the Oakland Zoo until I was introduced to it six months ago by a colleague. The zoo is only one hundred acres, with the rest of Knowland apparently a well-kept secret, even though it is Oakland's largest city park. I now hike there several times a week with my dogs, rarely bumping into anyone besides other dog walkers. It's a shame, because Knowland is a gem. It is approximately five hundred acres of unspoiled land, teeming with native California wildlife and plant life, including rare and endangered species. Its ridgeline affords breathtaking views of the bay. Knowland's wide-open spaces are a balm to the urban soul.

The Oakland Zoo has secured approval to eventually develop a large chunk of the land, including the ridgeline with the view. The expansion plan is to build a theme park-type affair, including office spaces, a gondola, gift shop, and restaurant. Ironically, it's also to include an exhibit about conservation and extinct California wildlife. In constructing this, the zoo will destroy habitat for species that are currently threatened, including the Alameda whipsnake.

My more immediate concern is Measure A1, which will go before Alameda County voters in November. Measure A1 is a $114 million parcel tax, ostensibly to help the zoo care for the animals. The Friends of Knowland Park, the East Bay chapter of the California Native Plant Society, the California Native Grasslands Association, the California Wildlife Foundation/California Oaks, Defense of Place, and the California Chaparral Institute are among the groups that believe Measure A1 is written so broadly that part of this tax could be used for the planned zoo expansion into undeveloped parts of Knowland.

If this vast swath of Oakland's pristine, open space is tragically to be paved over, those who care about wildlife and conservation object to funding any more of the expansion project as a matter of conscience.

Measure A1 is deceptively appealing, especially to animal lovers. The very cute yard signs urging a vote for Measure A1 sport a picture of a cartoon lion. They are popping up in yards all over Oakland. Glossy brochures are arriving by mail, and ads for Measure A1 are splashed across AC Transit buses. If the zoo is short of money, how can it afford such a slick ad campaign?

The zoo already receives substantial funding from the City of Oakland, the East Bay Regional Park District, and revenues from previously approved park measures. The expansion and development will cost an estimated $72 million. If there is not enough money to take care of the zoo animals now, why are there still plans for such an expensive project?

The zoo has a lot of explaining to do about its priorities, and how it will protect Knowland Park and its native denizens, before I am comfortable handing it more money.

Kathleen Matz, Oakland

"Berkeley at a Crossroads," Election 2012, 10/10

Required Reading

Thanks for this fascinating analysis, Mr. Gammon. Should be required reading for Berkeley voters.

Anti-growth activists in West Berkeley have been claiming a 2.9 percent commercial vacancy rate for at least three years. Odd that it never varies, by even a tenth of a percent.

Tor Berg, Berkeley

Just Wondering

Just wondering — is the Express really trying to blow its credibility? Opening up the print edition last week, there was this story with an accompanying photo of a deserted-looking Fourth Street, one lonely old camper truck, and nobody around. The story and photo caption claim this was a typical weekday scene, and that the buildings in the photo were "mostly abandoned." This is blatantly false. First off, if you are reading this, please take a short drive down that block on any weekday. Go ahead, do it. It's packed with cars; if you need to get out, you'll have a hard time finding a place to park. So when was the photo taken? Perhaps on a Sunday, or maybe on a holiday, but on a typical weekday? Not possible, sorry.

Now, about the "abandoned" claim. The large, long building on the left (it takes up the whole block) is the Wine.com warehouse. Nope, not abandoned. And, of course, all the people who work in that warehouse (and in all the other the surrounding businesses) are parking on the street, hence the crowding. It's closed on the weekend, by the way, except for the small retail section, which is only closed on Sunday. The tallish black building (background right) is also apparently not abandoned. It's hard to say what's going on in there, but with the lights on and stuff in the windows, you couldn't say it was abandoned. The multi-unit commercial building on the far side of it (not visible in the photo) is occupied by functioning businesses, not abandoned. Vik's used to be in that building, until it moved to a much bigger place farther down Fourth Street. The light-colored building directly on the right (the old Berkeley Pump building) and the building next to it do not look occupied, rather they seem to have been taken off the to-lease market some time ago by the owner, Doug Herst. Anybody care to find out why?


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