Letters for the Week of February 24, 2015

Readers sound off on Humboldt Redwood Company, the Oakland City Council, and the definition of science.

“The Lumber Man in Charge of Climate Policy,”
Feature, 2/11

HRC Is a Bad-Neighbor Bully

I live in Elk River. Humboldt Redwood Company’s (HRC) business plan, like that of Hurwitz’s Maxxam Corp, is based on intimidation and a policy of targeted civil rights abuse. My home and apple orchard lost 25 percent of its tax base value (according to the tax assessor) as a result of HRC’s increasing flooding of the county road access to my home and my orchard. They also destroyed my domestic water supply and filled the river’s endangered Coho salmon spawning habitat with seven feet of silt. About 140 homes are similarly affected by the flooding.

More than 60 percent of HRC’s timber harvest volume comes from Elk River and Freshwater Creek — they have logged forests containing 600 basal area per acre down to 75 basal area. One fifth of the harvest area has been clear-cut — and they have the chutzpah to falsely advertise this 88 percent reduction as “sustainable.”

Erosion of productive carbon and methane-rich topsoil is releasing about three to four times more carbon and methane than is lost by the denudation and cutting of the trees. The rate of erosion is 1,500 percent higher than in areas not harvested in the last twenty years. HRC’s business plan is to re-harvest every ten years. 

The company has spent huge sums lobbying government to gain approval of harvest plans that purposely externalize the avoided cost of compliance with existing laws onto powerless residents. This policy of oppression is designed to force families out of their homes and farms.

HRC is a bad-neighbor bully that refuses to reduce its increased flooding or to clean the pollution it deliberately put into our water. Only fools will buy HRC’s wide-grained, weak, rot-prone lumber.

Jesse Noell, Elk River

More Stories on Carbon Sequestration in Forests, Please

I’d love to hear a follow-up to this describing the “state of the art” when it comes to carbon sequestration in forests — notable projects that California can learn from, such as industry attitudes in other parts of the world and logging-forest or conservation-carbon-hawk partnerships.

Joe Chojnacki, Oakland

“Records Indicate that Gibson McElhaney Used Her Council Office for Personal Gain,” News, 2/11

The Whole Thing Stinks

Everything about the development process outlined in this article smells to high heaven. At the end of the day, it is not as much about the design details of the specific project as it is about the actions of a city councilmember, her staff, and the planning director.

Before working for Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Zach Wald was on previous councilmember Jane Brunner’s staff. Brunner and her staffers routinely interfered in the planning process by interjecting themselves into planning staff’s review of projects in her district. In fact, applicants often sought to incorporate Brunner’s (Wald’s) demands into the project before the staff or Planning Commission reviewed or took action on the project. Wald is only operating as he operated under Brunner and everybody in City Hall knows this to be true.

Despite public statements to the contrary and an auditor’s report criticizing the behavior, previous city attorneys and city administrators never put a stop to this behavior. The Planning Department constantly battled council offices in general about the issue of process, but Brunner’s intrusion was the worst.

Each city councilmember, ultimately, has every opportunity to have input on a project, should council approval be required by code or if the project is appealed. Behind-the-scenes interference by councilmembers creates a conflict of interest.

In this case, the planning director’s email to the applicant advising them of potential legal recourse by a councilmember was totally inappropriate. I am surprised that the city attorney would ever allow this to occur. As a department head, Rachel Flynn should be less concerned with the outcome and details of a design than she should be about making sure that at the end of the day, the process was clean and complies with the law.

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

I’ll Take Some Free Drawings, Too

Sounds to me like that super-nice architect will give all of Oakland free drawings for their buildings. Since I don’t personally have a vote on more than $1.6 million in contracts, does anyone really believe this guy [Morten] Jensen would provide me a free drawing? Gibson McElhaney is so obviously dirty. How long will we continue to provide her with our tax dollars as a salary while she also defaults on her taxes? Just completely disgusted she was ever voted in.

Jen Glassmaker, Danville

The Problem Is Bigger than Just Gibson McElhaney

Everyone loses when a city functions like this. 530 32nd Street was a beautiful structure constructed of old-growth wood, built by tradesmen who put their soul into their work. The building’s design spoke to the heady days in which it was built. That’s a piece of our city’s heritage gone for good. While I do not agree with how our councilmember is using her office to protect her home, her investment, I do understand where she’s coming from.

The situation is just a symptom of how badly our city represents the interests of its residents. Outside of Oakland, residents have a much stronger say in how their communities evolve. What’s being proposed at 530 32nd Street would never fly in most cities in the Bay Area, because it’s clear the design is meant to maximize profits for the developer at the expense of every single property that adjoins it. Take that proposed plan to any surrounding city and I guarantee you wouldn’t get past the denial of the demo permit. The issue is bigger than Gibson McElhaney’s misuse of city resources … a couple grand juries have said as much!

Matt Chambers, Oakland

Doesn’t This Impact the Cost of Housing?

I know this question is slightly outside the topic, but I am wondering what impact actions like this have on the cost of housing. Oakland desperately needs to build more housing supply to meet the ever-growing demand, and it seems that the city is content to C-block projects like this for no reason other than personal preference (assuming this development was allowed as-of-right). Just a thought.

Moy Aceves, Oakland

“The Weed War Undermines Science,” Legalization Nation, 2/11

Science Is an Evolving Body of Evidence

I have a problem with your opening comment, which lumps the people you don’t like all together under a flawed assumption. That is, that “science” is a static state of knowledge of what is true, good, and known to be right — by you, the author. You then go on to interview an authority on the issue of academic and scientific freedom from institutional bias. True science, one might say, is an evolving body of evidence. Evidence that could, in some future time, provide fodder for your opponents no matter what the source or motivation. Is this what you seek to protect? And if it is, is protecting intellectual and health freedom only pertinent to your pet issues?

Robert Townsend, Oakland

“The Collapse of Berkeley Health Center,” News, 2/11

The Money Was Used for Patient Care

The article is a bit heavy-handed and misleading. The troubles are true, but the author missed a huge point. Much of that money that was owed was used for patient care. The organization could be accused of caring too much for patients in the short term, and not caring for itself in the long term.

Andrew Galpern, Berkeley

“Berkeley, After Hours,” Food Review, 2/11

Brings Back Memories

One of the greatest shows I ever saw — and I saw plenty as a roadie and engineer — was Toots And The Maytals at The Longbranch. We still talk about it and it was forty years ago.

Phil Brown, Oakland

“OPD Still Appears to be Targeting Blacks,” News, 2/4

You’re Like Fox News

This article is the intellectual equivalent of a Fox News pundit asking, “Where’s the outrage at black-on-black violence?” The question Ali Winston and Darwin BondGraham seem to be asking is “Why are the OPD stopping so many African-American people?” While BondGraham and Winston seem to imply that OPD are racially profiling African Americans, they (like the Fox News pundit) seem to be afraid of asking the real questions here.

The Fox News pundit fails to realize that there is no such thing as black-on-black violence, as there is no such thing as white-on-white violence. That people kill people of their own race, regardless of race. Then, the question becomes why are such a high percentage of black people being murdered – then you realize that violent crime is always highest in the most marginalized, impoverished groups in society. Once you start asking the question, “Why are African Americans marginalized, and disproportionally living in poverty?” that’s when you start asking the right questions. Maybe Winston and BondGraham didn’t think of the possibility that African Americans are stopped more often because they live in areas of higher crime. And that maybe African Americans live in higher crime areas because they have been historically marginalized and victims of racist economic policies. Then again, maybe it’s just easier to call OPD racists.

Clarence C. Johnson, Oakland


Our February 18 news story, “Berkeley’s Anti-Union Shift,” erroneously stated that a Berkeley city spokesperson did not respond for comment. The story, in fact, included comments from Berkeley spokesperson Matthai Chakko. 


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