Letters for the Week of March 12

Readers sound off on private security patrols in Oakland, substance abuse at Berkeley Student Cooperative, and the East Bay's hidden staircases.

“”When Private Patrols Pull the Trigger,” News 2/26

More Important Questions

“To what extent are residents legally liable for the actions of the officers they hire?” Actually, the city should answer some more important questions:

Does the city acknowledge that a person committing a crime, such as the burglar in this incident, is responsible for the consequences of his action, including injury to himself and to others?

Does the city deny that its low priority for police staffing has prompted groups of residents to hire private security?

Does the city acknowledge its miserable ineffectiveness at keeping firearms out of the possession of a large number of career criminals?

Charles Pine, Oakland

Punishing Citizens

How the hell did we turn into a country that endeavors to punish its citizens for taking responsibility for defending themselves? Utterly nauseating!

John Rigney, San Francisco

“Let’s Not Sweep Substance Abuse Under the Rug — Again,” Opinion, 2/26

Fostering Safe Culture

The Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC) has a long-established culture that discourages people from calling 911 to receive medical attention in situations that involve drug use. From a realistic perspective, BSC students are not going to categorically stop using drugs. Discouraging students from calling 911 through punitive policies such as the multiple bad conduct terminations that have taken place in similar situations means that more serious overdoses will happen, and that they’ll happen more often. High insurance rates suck, but they’re a better option than students dying on BSC property. Every serious overdose on BSC property in the recent past that has had long-term consequences had those consequences because no one called 911 promptly. BSC’s general culture of discouraging 911 calls coupled with certain provisions in the Cloyne plan has a high likelihood of leading to future overdoses with catastrophic consequences for those involved, and higher insurance premiums for the BSC, or even an existential threat to the BSC if UC Berkeley decides to pull Cloyne or Rochdale. Fostering a culture in which students feel safe calling for medical help when they need it is critical to the future success — and potentially the future existence — of the BSC.

Daniel Jackson, Berkeley

“Staircases to Heaven,” Insider’s Guide, 2/26

Preserving Public Stairs

In addition to the Berkeley Path Wanderers, organizations such as Oakland Urban Paths (OUP) and the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers are dedicated to promoting and preserving public stairs and pathways through walking tours and clean-up parties.

In 2009, OUP coordinated a citywide pathway condition inventory with Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and the City of Oakland, resulting in city-funded improvements to twenty stairways. Projects ranged from new handrails to repaired risers and whole stairway replacements. Step up and take a look at the recently completed Davidson Way/Bonham Way improvements off of Grand Avenue. There are ten stair/pathway improvement projects planned over the next eighteen months; the City of Oakland’s efforts to preserve these resources deserve applause.

These improvements, community-led stewardship projects, and neighborhood history are often profiled in OUP’s free monthly walking tours, held every second Saturday.

Paul Rosenbloom, Co-founder,
Oakland Urban Paths, Oakland

Help Fix Stairs

Thanks for this great write-up! The City of Oakland and local advocates are actively working to fund repairs and improvements to these stairs and pathways. If you are interested in supporting this work and helping to prioritize fixes you are welcome to attend the monthly Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meeting (open to the public) and have your voice heard: OaklandBikes.info/bpac.

Robert Prinz, Education Director,
Bike East Bay, Oakland

Berkeley Path Wanderers

The Berkeley Path Wanderers sell a map showing all of Berkeley’s public paths and stairways. They also lead two free walks each month and work to maintain and improve Berkeley’s path network.

Lori Kohlstaedt, Berkeley

“A Party for the Ages,” Insider’s Guide, 2/26

Happy to Party

I became a volunteer before ever attending the solstice party after hearing about it. I had a great time helping, and seeing all those people having a good time made me happy that I was a part of it.

Brandon Baldwin, Concord

“Oakland Seeks to Tighten Rent Control Law,” News, 2/19

Most Landlords Aren’t Bad

The debt service issue is moot, given lending requirements that a property has debt service. If anything, the removal of the debt service rent increase will only harm the little guy who wants to buy his/her first one-to-four unit (residential loan) rental property. The lawsuit mentioned in this article is a good example of the current law working. That landlord backed down and had to pay the tenants a huge amount of money to resolve their complaints. The current law and system worked! Most landlords are not bad people, but there are a few bad actors in any industry.

It may be arguable to extend capital improvement payback periods for large improvements, but twenty years seems punitive. Eight seems more realistic. Landlords almost never get fully paid back anyway, as tenants move around. I think we all want our city to improve and be repaired when needed! Repairs aren’t free and many landlords are not wealthy.

For regular rent increases, there is already rent control shielding tenants from large market swings. The stories about tenant rents going up hundreds of dollars due to capital improvements are rare, and are only applicable to tenants who have rents well below the market rent because landlords do not raise rents above market levels. Usually, the “below market” tenant’s new rent is still far below market and they get the benefit of capital improvements to their home.

Aaron Young, Oakland

“Why Private Security Patrols Are Not the Answer,” Opinion, 2/19

Load of Nonsense

The nicest thing I can say about this editorial is that it’s a load of nonsense. The disconnect from reality climaxed with “God forbid, a child just passing through the neighborhood gets hit by a stray bullet fired by a private patrol officer?” Our city’s kids are already getting hit by stray bullets from criminals at a rate that is horrifying to me. Bay Area-wide crime-reduction efforts have caused the crime balloon to bulge in Oakland because idealistic city leaders have convinced themselves their utter failure has nothing to do with their seemingly blind adherence to ideology.

Matt Chambers, Oakland

Invest in Community

It’s a shame that we have to resort to private patrols in the first place. I see it the same way the patrols do: Be a deterrent to crime (until the city does something to curb it). As a preschool teacher, I’m invested in the local community. It clearly starts with reaching these young people’s children before they are destined for a life of crime. The city needs to do something. Sadly, these teens who are causing much of the crime are somewhat of a loss. Let’s reach out to their babies so they don’t follow suit.

Julia Rose, Oakland

“California’s Thirsty Almonds,” Feature, 2/5

Break Water Addiction

Thanks for the great article. I hope it is widely shared since mainstream media coverage has been pathetic. First, we have to defeat the insane two-tunnel plan. Then, buy out the West San Joaquin Valley and return it to its natural state. Cushion it as much as we can for the workers and farmers there. There is no other logical choice. Agribusiness, which already takes 80 percent of our water, is addicted to cheap taxpayer-subsidized water, and we have to break that addiction for everyone’s sake.

Victor Ochoa, Oakland


Our January 29 news story, “Oakland Cops Think City Is too Liberal,” misstated the results of the last eleven arbitration cases involving Oakland police officers. The city did not lose all eleven cases; rather, the city lost five of the eleven, and in four other cases, the arbitrator reduced the punishment sought by the police department.


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