Letters for the Week of April 22, 2015

Readers sound off on misled seniors, comparative water use, and Afrika Town.

“Tricking Immigrant Seniors,” News, 4/8

Sounds Like San Francisco

Misleading tactics by those invested in processes in which a lot of money is at stake is not surprising. The fact that the city does not (or did not in this case) provide translators at public meetings where development of a public parcel impacts a community that is largely Asian and monolingual is either tone deaf or a sly oversight. With city coffers standing to gain more than $5 million in the sale (which some believe is too little a price for this land) and some members of the planning commission with stakes in the matter, I wonder. Having lived in San Francisco for ten years and being forced out by high rents, gentrification, and the dot-com bubble, this all sounds mighty familiar.

Lisa Awrey, Oakland

Oakland Needs the Money

Oakland has a huge budget deficit and should sell this parcel to the highest bidder. How can we justify building more subsidized housing, especially on our prime real estate? I certainly don’t think most tax-paying Oakland citizens want to pay for another low-income housing project on this prime parcel.

Fritz Hoch, Oakland

Put Affordable Housing on Public Land

The issue is not whether market-rate housing should be built in Oakland. It has been in the past and will be in the future. But why should a scarce public resource — publicly owned land paid for with taxpayer dollars — be used for 100 percent luxury housing? Why not put market-rate housing on private land and use public land for much-needed affordable housing? With the demise of redevelopment, public land is one of the few resources the city still has.

As for the city’s claims that most housing built in the last couple of years is affordable housing — this is a deliberately distorted statistic that looks at a period when the city was spending the last of its committed redevelopment affordable housing funds and while the housing market was still coming out of recession. The city’s own figures show that from 1999 to 2014, 74 percent of all new housing built in Oakland was high-end market-rate housing.

Jeff Levin, East Bay Housing Organizations, Oakland

This Is Bad Public Policy

The entire context for this very bad land-use decision by the City of Oakland should be on full blast. This is a bad project on many levels. The behind-the-scene process that allowed the parcel to be controlled by this group is problematic. The bad policy of using public land for private profits to the exclusion of affordable housing and the total violation of housing policy outlined in the city’s own Housing Element is clear.

How can the planning commission approve this project and at the very next meeting hold a public hearing to discuss the Housing Element? The Housing Element is mandated to include strategies for building affordable housing. Are you kidding me?

Of course the Asian seniors were bused to the meeting and given incorrect information leading them to support the project against their own best interest. The project proponent has history in San Francisco. This is a classic Rose Pak move used to intimidate and control the politics of the Asian community to the benefit of her cronies.

We don’t need these kind of tactics in Oakland and it speaks volumes about the integrity of the developers. Mayor Libby Schaaf should be ashamed to have her name associated with this kind of activity. Even her old boss, former Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente never stooped this low to get a project approved.

Gary Patton, former deputy director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Oakland, Hayward

“Pumping California Dry,” Seven Days, 4/8

Where Are We Going to Go?

It takes three gallons of water to produce one walnut and one gallon to produce one almond. If we continue to allow the mega farms to bleed the life out of California, where will we live? Look, we have enough water for one year. By then the cash cow will drop to her knees.

Phillip Moya, Merced

“Regulating Water Use By Pot Farms,” Legalization Nation, 4/8

End Prohibition Now, California

Hopefully, California residents are paying attention. Forcing the black market to regulate cannabis (marijuana) has proven to be one of the United States’ worst policy failures in history. Forcing government to regulate the relatively safe, god-given plant is best for everyone.

Since Colorado re-legalized cannabis, nearly every negative prediction has proven false by nearly every measure. 
California voters will likely have the opportunity to completely re-legalize cannabis in 2016 and should not let that golden opportunity slip away. The negative consequences of cannabis prohibition cannot end soon enough.

Stan White, Dillon, Colorado

“Defending Afrika Town,” What the Fork, 4/8

We Need Squatters’ Rights

If we had squatters’ rights for taking over derelict and neglected property, we would have owners investing in maintaining them. Also, there would be an incentive for owners to collaborate with community agriculture groups. Cuba has laws allowing anyone to farm unused and neglected land, and it works. Havana has some of the most productive urban ag on the planet.

Todd Jersey, Berkeley

If It Was Good Enough for Walgreens…

The city gave Walgreens a big lot on Seminary Avenue. It can give Afrika Town this empty lot that no luxury condo developer wants.

The owner of the empty lot is off the hook — trying to hold the garden hostage for a million.

Patti Rich, Oakland

Afrika Town Is Gentrification, Too

It kinda seems like appropriation of other people’s property. An honest journalist would ask if the development would add housing to one of tightest housing markets in the country? As in, why are people being displaced? Why is housing so, so expensive? And why don’t we build enough? Also, won’t the development contribute tax dollars to local schools and city programs?

It really seems like these individuals are engaging in a more “grassroots” type of gentrification but gentrification nonetheless. The title of this article shows the lack of balance reporting. The Express is just another Fox News — far left.

Moy Aceves, Oakland

“Farmers Are Sacrificing,” Letters, 4/1

Nice Try, Mr. Almond Board

As someone who has been in advocacy and communications for nearly twenty years, I want to compliment Mr. Richard Waycott, CEO of the Almond Board of California, (and perhaps his communications staff) on the excellent reframing of the “facts” to serve his industry’s interests.

As a former philosophy student, and in the interest of furthering knowledge, though, I’d like to point out a couple of his better efforts to misdirect his audience.
First: 70 percent and 80 percent are not significantly different numbers, so “less than 70 percent” of California almonds being exported is not a lot different “factually” from more than 80 percent. This communications technique is very similar to the common sales trick of lowering the price from $2000 to $1999. Mr. Waycott is attempting to discredit his adversary by expressing loud outrage over small differences in data.
(I suspect that for many readers and residential water users alike, who is eating the almonds is not even that much of an issue, anyway.)

His second reframe is more clever. Unless I’m mistaken Mr. Waycott flips the common use of words on their head in his attempt to refute that agriculture uses comprise nearly 80 percent of California water consumption. Mr. Waycott’s “fact:”
“[E]nvironmental use takes up, on average, about half of all managed water.” If I understand the term correctly, “environmental use” is the water that is not used by California water consumers, both business and residents, but instead allowed to be “used” by fish, rivers, streams, estuaries and bays. Sure, California is “managing” water when we allow only half of it to be consumed, mandate that half be allowed to flow into the environment, avoiding species extinction and degradation of our rivers, estuaries, and bays.

It is Orwellian redefinition of the highest order to redefine preservation of this precious resource as “use” in order to deny that 80 percent of the half that is consumed goes to agriculture. Again, kudos to Mr. Waycott’s communications staff.

I’m sympathetic to small family farmers, especially those who have been in a particular business for generations. Unfortunately, Mr. Waycott has left me a bit suspicious of his other “facts,” and I’ll need to look into them myself. I have a feeling that, even if “more than three-quarters of almond farms are 100 acres or less and more than 90 percent are family farms,” the majority of almonds are produced by large agribusiness. We live in the age of the One Percenters, after all. It is not a stretch to imagine that 90 percent of the almond farms produce a relatively small percent of the almonds.

Thanks for the excellent article [“A Drop in the Bucket,” 3/18], Mr. Gammon!

Mike Daley, San Pablo


Our April 15 news story, “Five on Five,” misspelled Andrew Bogut’s first name. Also, our April 15 Sustainable Living story, “Growing a Better System,” incorrectly referred to the Insight Garden Program as the Insight Prison Project.


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