Letters for the Week of March 25, 2015

Readers sound off on rent control, the Bay Area Derby Girls, and doing well while doing good.

“How East Bay Tenants Get Displaced,” News, 3/11

We Need More Rent Control

If you don’t have a rent-controlled place, you are screwed. Period. No limit to how much they can raise, and to buy something in the Bay Area requires a huge down payment.

Ji Kim, Oakland

We Need Less Rent Control

Rent control does not work, and so-called progressive government action often makes the situation worse. If people want to live in Oakland, they have to pay for it. There is no right to live wherever one wants to live. Just look at European cities; real estate prices are very high, so those who cannot afford the price for convenience live further out. What some of your commenters are advocating is for the owners of the rental properties to subsidize their tenants; that is what we call rent control. If it is deemed to be important for our society to have people living where they cannot afford the real estate prices, then society needs to pay for it. That means taxpayers have to take money out of their pockets and put their money into the pocket of a renter who cannot afford the market price. Because politicians realize that this would require either a tax increase or a reduction in spending, probably for public safety, they pass a law that requires the property owner to pay for the rent subsidy.

No wonder rental property is in short supply. Would you want to be a landlord? I wouldn’t.

James A. Schloss, Oakland

You Need More Examples

It would have been great if you had supported your headline with other examples. While the residents of 901 Jefferson are getting screwed, your article doesn’t prove this is a trend, but rather questionable ethics by one company. For example, we have a lease on a 2-bed-1.5-bath in the Grand Lake neighborhood that includes laundry and parking. We pay $2,700 per month — not a small amount, I admit — but after two years our landlord raised our rent $50. Not hundreds of dollars. Fifty. Maybe our landlord is an anomaly; it’s hard to say. If your article covered more instances of major transgressions against renters it might be clearer.

Becky Caudill, Oakland

“Of Trees and Elephants,” Seven Days, 3/11

Nobody Wanted

Your article on the FEMA grant to remove eucalyptus trees in the East Bay Hills requires a clarification. No one, including the Claremont Canyon Conservancy, has ever proposed clear-cutting. That is a fabrication created by those who oppose removing the fire-prone eucalyptus. The conservancy has indeed proposed removing the eucalyptus trees but this will not be clear-cutting by any stretch of the imagination.

We have counted the trees in some of the areas where the eucalyptus would be removed. We determined that there are more bay and oak trees than eucalyptus. Removing the eucalyptus will provide the sunlight and water that the smaller bays and oaks need to thrive.

The problem was compounded by the freeze in 1972, which resulted in untreated eucalyptus stumps re-sprouting with multiple saplings, which are now mature, huge, densely packed trees. Furthermore, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended that the eucalyptus be removed so that native species that provide habitat for the endangered Alameda whipsnake can grow.

The conservancy works to create a fire-safe neighborhood and to that end supports both the removal of eucalyptus trees and the growth of native trees and shrubs. We also build and maintain trails so that people can enjoy the beauty of our East Bay Hills.

Jon Kaufman, stewardship coordinator, Claremont Canyon Conservancy, Berkeley

It Was Not an Environmental Victory

FEMA’s plan to only eliminate some of the invasive eucalyptus trees in Strawberry and Claremont canyons is not an environmental victory, as you characterized it in your column. Removing nonnative species so that natives can regain their place can be somewhere between very difficult to impossible in some instances, and this is one of them. Pesticides poison the natural environment and no real environmentalist advocates using them, but nonnative species like eucalyptus replace native plants, which are much better habitat for native animals, often the only habitat for them. Ideally, an environmental victory here would have been complete removal of the eucalyptus and its replacement with native trees and other native plants.

Sometimes things that humans break cannot be fixed; extinction is forever, for example, and some of the radioactivity that humans have created will be around until the sun burns out. Removing nonnative species is often also in this category. There could be no environmental victory on this particular issue, though complete removal of eucalyptus and replanting with natives would have at least given the native trees and other plants a chance to return (the leaves of eucalyptus trees poison the ground so that only eucalyptus can grow there, thereby killing and replacing native plants).

Using massive amounts of pesticide would be environmentally harmful, as would clear-cutting trees and leaving a moonscape, as you put it. So perhaps FEMA’s proposed project is the least bad possible solution (aside from manually ensuring that once cut, the eucalyptus does not return, which is probably not logistically possible). But to say that leaving a highly invasive species instead of replacing it with natives is an environmental victory is clearly not true or correct.

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley

Eucalyptus Get a Bad Rap

Why is there such irrational hatred of a specific tree species? Eucalyptus trees are essential to winter migration habitat for the near extinct monarch butterfly. Removing hundreds of thousands of trees is insane. Climate change is here — we need to sequester all the carbon we can.

Margaret Hall, Berkeley

Now It’s Time to Save the Other Animals

Thanks for spreading the good news about the Ringling Bros. circus elephants. Can the other circus animals be far behind? Big cats, bears, great apes, et al., lead lives of severe deprivation. Ringling units travel 48 weeks out of 52 every year, putting tremendous stress on the animals. When not performing silly “tricks” for an insensitive public, most circus animals are kept chained or caged, with all of their normal social behaviors stymied. No wonder so many are neurotic and psychotic. You’d be, too. Plus, there’s the fact that many of these animals are endangered species. Is this what we’re saving them for?

Only weeks ago, Mexico outlawed the use of all wild animals in traveling circuses and carnivals. Can the United States be far behind? One sometimes wonders who the real “Third World” country is.

Today the elephants, tomorrow all other wild animals, including the orcas, dolphins, and sea lions at places like SeaWorld. Finally, another big “Thank You!” to the Oakland City Council for banning the brutal bullhooks and helping set the stage for this progressive move by Ringling Bros.

Eric Mills, coordinator, Action for Animals, Oakland

“Big Business is Lurking,” Legalization Nation, 3/11

The Current System Works

Every responsible adult in California over the age of eighteen already has access to medical cannabis for nearly any condition he or she deems it to be helpful for, including stress, anxiety and sleeping disorders. Google “medical cannabis doctor” and you will see the many inexpensive local medical cannabis doctor options you have to choose from.

California also already taxes your medication the same as any other retail item you purchase. No one seems to talk about the millions upon millions of tax dollars that California has already been collecting for years. Stay active in local politics and don’t let greedy corporations take away your rights.

Kevin Reed, San Francisco

Medicinal Oil for the Prince of Peace

Big business interests should not be allowed to outlaw home cultivation. You cannot patent a plant, only the strains you have created. If home cultivation is forbidden, the number of strains available to patients and public alike will be limited to those that enrich a few wealthy, greedy, morally unscrupulous people who favor “limited prohibition” in order to line their own pockets.

Prohibition of marijuana is a premise built on a tissue of lies: “Concern For Public Safety.” Our new laws save hundreds of lives every year, on our highways alone. In November of 2011 a study at the University of Colorado found that, in the thirteen states that decriminalized marijuana between 1990 and 2009, traffic fatalities have dropped by nearly 0 percent — now nearly ten percent in Michigan — while sales of beer went flat. No wonder Big Alcohol opposes it.

In 2012, a study released by 4AutoinsuranceQuote revealed that marijuana users are safer drivers than non-marijuana users, as “the only significant effect that marijuana has on operating a motor vehicle is slower driving,” which “is arguably a positive thing.” Despite occasional accidents, eagerly reported by police-blotter “journalists” as “marijuana-related,” a mix of substances were often involved in such cases. Alcohol, most likely, and prescription drugs, nicotine, caffeine, meth, cocaine, heroin — plus a trace of the marijuana from a party last week. However, on the whole, as revealed in big-time, insurance-industry stats, within the broad swath of mature, experienced consumers, slower and more cautious driving shows up in significant numbers. A recent federal study has reached the same conclusion. And legalization should improve those numbers further.

No one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana. It’s the most benign “substance” in history. And most people — and particularly patients who medicate with marijuana — use it in place of prescription drugs or alcohol.

Marijuana has many benefits, most of which are under-reported or never mentioned in American newspapers. Research at the University of Saskatchewan indicates that, unlike alcohol, cocaine, heroin, and Nancy (“Just say, ‘No!'”) Reagan’s beloved nicotine, marijuana is a neuro-protectant that actually encourages brain-cell growth. Research in Spain (the Guzman study) and other countries has discovered that it also has tumor-shrinking, anti-carcinogenic properties. These were confirmed by the thirty-year Tashkin population study at UCLA.

Drugs are man-made and cooked up in labs for the sake of patents and the profits gained by them — often useful, but typically burdened with cautionary notes and lists of side effects as long as one’s arm.

Marijuana is a medicinal herb, the most versatile in history. “Cannabis” in Latin and “kaneh bosm” in the old Hebrew scrolls, quite literally the Biblical Tree of Life, marijuana was used by early Christians to treat everything from skin diseases to deep pain and despair. The very name “Christ” translates as “the anointed one.” Well then, anointed with what? It’s a fair question. And it wasn’t holy water, friends. Holy water came into wide use in the Middle Ages. In Biblical times it was used by a few tribes of Greek pagans. But Christ was neither Greek nor pagan.

Medicinal oil, for the Prince of Peace. A formula from the Biblical era has been rediscovered. It specifies a strong dose of oil from kaneh bosom, “the fragrant cane” of a dozen uses: ink, paper, rope, nutrition. It was used for clothing on their backs and incense in their temples. And a “skinful” of medicinal oil could certainly calm one’s nerves, imparting a sense of benevolence and connection with all living things. No wonder that the “anointed one” could gain a spark, an insight, a sense of the divine, and the confidence to convey those feelings to friends and neighbors.

I am appalled at the number of “Christian” politicians, prosecutors, and police who pose on church steps or kneeling in prayer on their campaign trails, but cannot or will not face the scientific or the historical truths about cannabis: Medicinal Herb Number One, safe and effective for thousands of years, and celebrated by most of the world’s major religions.

William Clark, Rochester, Michigan

“Parking Matters,” What the Fork, 3/11

Is the Bus Stop Really at Fault?

I was talking to one of the indie merchants across from Safeway this morning, and he confirms my suspicion that since the Safeway parking lot opened, his business is getting back to where it was before all the construction made it so difficult to shop there. Since Tara’s and Cask’s customers can conveniently use that parking lot and walk half a block, I’m not seeing the loss of those street spots as the necessary cause of the lost business. Also, Tara’s year-over-year drop in sales for January amounts to less than $50 or maybe 10 sales per day. That’s certainly something you’d like to avoid, but what percentage of their business is that? It sounds well within the range of normal business fluctuations, and sure, you want to reverse that trend, but it’s not as simple as blaming the bus stop and you’re done.

Mary Eisenhart, Oakland

“The Sweet Spot,” Kid You Not, 3/11

Great Parenting Column

I just read the column by Tosha Schore, which my daughter forwarded to me, and I really loved it. She writes and illustrates the situation very well. Being a grandmother, I have memories of the same examples of parenting and experiences.

Suzanne Allswang, Los Angeles

“What the Frack?” News, 2/25

You Can Do Good and Do Well

I found the recent article about the quandary that unions have between their political views on climate change and their investments in fossil fuels to be very timely. Fossil-free investing is becoming more and more of a focus for all investors. In our experience as financial managers, this problem is not unique to unions but is common to many other institutional investors, including public interest organizations, civic groups, and even religious communities. Frequently, there are two different centers of power and a “Chinese Wall” separating the two.

While this may be a good thing within the Big Banks and Wall Street, it can have a negative impact on organizations.
The folks making policy decisions frequently fail to communicate with the folks making investment decisions. The latter tend to operate on a traditional “prudent person” basis, rather than the updated interpretation, which allows for the organizations’ mission to play a role in financial decisions. Even among individual investors, there is a perception that investing in a fossil-free portfolio will have a negative impact on performance. This is not the case.

A competitive diversified portfolio can be created without investing in an Exxon, Shell, or, more locally, a Chevron. Investors can integrate their values with their money. It is no longer the case that you can’t do good and do well.

Ron Freund, Emeryville

“Join the Club,” Insider’s Guide, 2/25

You Missed One

I’m pretty sad that the Bay Area Derby Girls were missed in this round up.

Erica Yoon, Oakland

“The Quintessential Oakland Restaurant,” Insider’s Guide, 2/25

Add One More to the List

I would also add Venga Paella (229 Brush Street) in the Jack London district. Even though they have only been open for just over a year, they feel like home. They have great paella and a relaxing vibe. I never feel rushed to leave, and they make the extra effort to know who you are and help you feel part of the experience. Definitely a local gem in my book.

Tony Sierra, Oakland

“Cracks in Richmond’s Progressive Unity,” News, 2/18

Oakland Needs to Learn from Richmond

The story stated: “The RPA [Richmond Progressive Alliance] deserves credit for establishing a political climate where the norm is progressive politics and the city, as a whole, has benefited from their work.” The East Bay’s most corrupt and incompetent civic government, namely Oakland, could learn something from the recent political history in Richmond. Oakland really needs both the equivalent of a progressive political party as well as effective good-government leaders. One of the best articles I’ve seen in the Express.

Hobart Johnson, Oakland

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

Birds of a Feather

How interesting that around the same time [Lynette Gibson McElhaney was apparently using her office for personal gain], she was voting to give 53 more acres of Knowland Park to Oakland Zoo developers, which was required by US Fish and Wildlife as mitigation for the zoo’s environmentally damaging expansion project. This expansion passed in spite of its lack of financial accountability or transparency. Neighbors will certainly have their privacy taken away by the added lights, roads, and noise. The public will lose open space and the rare plants and animals that live there will be seriously impacted by a project that is supposed to honor native California animals that have been extirpated by development.

Caroline Haas Kim, Oakland

“BART Should Drop $70,000 Fine,” Seven Days, 1/28

Protests Are Supposed to Be Inconvenient

I refuse to take any position on protests but have to admit being amused by the people angered about the inconvenience protests cause. Imagine for a minute how inconvenient it must be to be murdered when you weren’t expecting that to happen. And never in my sixty years of life in the Bay Area do I recall so many people of so many different ethnic backgrounds being so unified. It’s impressive, even given the sad circumstances.

Ken Hensley, Alameda


Our March 18 Seven Days column, “A Drop in the Bucket,” misstated the percentage of California’s almond crop that is exported. According to the Almond Board of California, it is 70 percent — not 80 percent.

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