Letters for the Week of March 5

Readers sound off on Oakland's rent control law, private security patrols, and OPD's new compliance director.

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

Little Guy Gets Screwed

I’ve been forced out of my last two homes in Oakland by landlords who wanted to renovate and jack up the rent. Finding any useful information about your legal rights, like answers to questions like “Can he raise the rent to whatever he wants after the master tenant leaves?” or “Can he kick us out?” and how to defend yourself against a greedy landlord is damn near impossible. East Bay Community Law Center won’t talk to you if you’re above the poverty level, the rules on the city website take a lawyer to understand, especially with the concessions given by the state under Ellis and Costa-Hawkins, and private attorneys won’t even give you advice unless they agree to “take your case,” i.e., only if they smell big money to be made suing your landlord. The little guy continues to get screwed here, and this trend is rising with the influx of San Francisco refugees fleeing insane rents. Hang on to your hats, residents of “NOBE,” you’re at ground zero.

David Lubertozzi, Richmond

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

Focus on Prevention

Thank you, Joel, for having the guts to write this piece. It’s exactly what I would have written. Just like private schools and other examples of the ways we “privatize” the public sphere, these private patrols only increase the gulf between neighborhoods who can afford them and those who cannot. We need more money for education and after-school programs. How about taking the money for these patrols and contributing them to places like Destiny Arts Center, which are doing something to prevent violence among youth? Thanks for this insightful critique. I found it useful to see Robert Gammon’s latest article on yet another update of how OPD is still in non-compliance with the federally mandated reforms, but at least the new appointment of Robert Warshaw as the lead in compliance should help.

Karen Hester, Oakland

This Isn’t Utopia

Joel Tena’s thoughtful critique of the proliferation of private security firms reminded me of a quote I wrote down during television news coverage of the 1992 Rodney King verdict riots. An exasperated spokeswoman for the Los Angeles police department responded to a criticism of widespread looting and property damage by stating: “We can’t have a cop on every corner. This isn’t utopia, you know.” My utopia’s a bit different, with more prevention, youth diversion, job opportunities, and peace officers than the situation we have now.

Lincoln Cushing, Berkeley

Real Market Access

If we address access to work issues that pay living wages, a lot of the people committing these property crimes would see a better alternative and break out of this pattern. Most are not hardened criminals; they are just trying to get by through whatever economic mechanism is available to them. However, getting people to even see that is the real hurdle. Because the average population is not living in hard-pressed neighborhoods, it’s hard to get anyone to recognize how inaccessible the rest of the world is to residents living in depressed neighborhoods. Sure, you may be able to walk to BART and get anywhere in the Bay Area in thirty minutes, but you live in Rockridge. Have you ever tried to catch a bus out of East Oakland? Not an easy feat. Twenty minutes turns into an hour. Kudos to those of you who do it every day. Most of those individuals though are riding to work for a minimum wage job with no benefits or opportunity for growth. If you were given the choice between riding a bus two hours a day to work for minimum wage, or staying around your neighborhood turning merchandise for the same or maybe even more profit, which would you choose? If you say the first, you’re lying to yourself. You know how I know? You won’t even go to the gym on a regular basis because it’s too inconvenient for you. Are you really going to fool yourself into thinking if dealt the same hand you wouldn’t turn to petty crime too? We need to create real market access for these neighborhoods.

Victoria Swift, Alameda

Main Agenda Is Violence

I don’t think this writer is being realistic. The people committing the crime are not doing it because they want jobs and cannot get them. Violence seems to be their main agenda and goal in life. Do they go to youth centers for any reason other than to shoot at people? That is all we hear about. They don’t seem to want to work. Normal unemployed people do not rob people. Criminals seem fundamentally different, and it is not helpful to pretend otherwise.

Jan Van Dusen, Oakland

Pitting Affluent Against Poor

Divisive is precisely the adjective that should be applied to the decades of neglect of public safety, education, and economic development by elected officials. Whatever combination of effective social programs and policing one might favor, our officials have succeeded in mismanaging both social programs and the police to the point where voters wouldn’t trust them with more tax money and don’t trust the police to protect them.

The last inevitable straw was the decision by officials a couple of years ago to pull police away from the affluent areas to try to reduce homicides in the poor areas. 

It’s not a question of choosing between protecting lives versus property. It would never have come down to that if officials had managed the police and social programs at least as well as just average US cities with similar demographics do. That pitted affluent residents against poor residents fighting for the attention of a dysfunctional OPD.

Len Raphael, Oakland

“Walking in a Farmer’s Boots,” Letters, 2/26

Scourge on Ecosystem

Since the author of the article didn’t do it, I have to respond to Dan Errotabere’s letter asking for sympathy for Westlands farmers and pretending that they’re not doing anything wrong environmentally. From an environmental perspective, the Westlands Water District and the farmers who benefit from it are probably the strongest and most environmentally destructive force in our state.

While one can easily empathize with people who have grown up farming where they live and therefore think that doing so is normal and okay, it’s quite obvious that the western San Joaquin Valley should never have been farmed due to its lack of water. Mr. Errotabere writes that if those of us who want to prevent the great ecological harms that farming has done to the delta by sucking out water were successful, our food would have to be grown in other countries. This is ridiculous. The problem is the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, not the entire valley or the Sacramento Valley, where much produce is grown. Furthermore, many of these crops are grown for export. And finally, we advocate for the perfectly logical idea that water-intensive crops should be grown where water is abundant, not in the dry west where they do much damage by sucking water out of ecosystems, water that is needed by the species that live in those ecosystems.

As if Mr. Errotabere’s advocacy of Westlands’ farmers environmentally harmful taking of water weren’t bad enough, he follows his defense of this harmful practice by lying about Jerry Brown’s proposed Peripheral Canal II. This proposed canal would have the potential to take much more water out of the delta than is currently taken, and therefore would take much more water eventually, probably very soon after being put into use, which is already far too much. Yet Mr. Errotabere says that the efforts of Westland farmers to support the canal are a “seven-year-long effort to restore the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta’s ecosystem.” This lie would be laughable if not for the immense harm that the canal will do if it is built. The fact is that Westlands farmers are nothing but a scourge on the delta ecosystem. If Westlands were eliminated from farming, the delta would be exponentially better off.

We all have to eat and since none of us are hunter-gatherers and most don’t grow our own food, we have to rely on farmers and farming to live. But the fact that farmers work hard is no excuse for destroying our native ecosystems to make a buck. Our current agricultural practices — from pesticide use to sucking ecosystems dry — are extremely environmentally harmful, and need to be stopped. The first thing we should do is to take the Westlands land out of agricultural production, which as “California’s Thirsty Almonds” showed, is already being done to a small extent. That, along with prohibition on growing water-intensive crops and growing crops for export, would go a long way toward restoring our sick delta ecosystem.

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley

“Robert Warshaw Needs to Clean House at OPD,” Seven Days, 2/19

Establishment Is Responsible

The ultimate responsibility for the long-standing failures of OPD lies not with outside experts like Warshaw. The responsibility lies with the Oakland political establishment — the mayor and the city council — who steadfastly refuse to dig into the problems, to understand them, to build a plan for dealing with the problems, and to follow through. Yes, it’s Quan and her predecessors and her cronies and her would-be replacements like Councilmember Libby Schaaf who really can’t be bothered to deal with our difficult realities.

As for the “mass exodus” former Chief Jordan supposedly mentioned, it’s not going to happen — it has been happening for a very long time. Oakland’s sworn police officer attrition rate is very high and loses us sixty cops a year. Again, the responsibility of a “don’t know, don’t care” downtown establishment.

Michele Ocla, Oakland

Hope Change Is Near

Great article. It’s nice to read about someone such as Robert Warshaw who is firm about reforming the Oakland Police Department. He isn’t there to make friends with the officers’ union, or be a nice guy to other officers, he is doing what he is supposed to do and that’s cleaning up the corrupt police department. He also doesn’t seem like the type of person to take sides, whether it be with civilians or officers. He appears to be the type to do what is morally right by opposing racial profiling and suspect abuse. I think it’s a great feeling to know that with him in this position, inappropriate officers may feel the need to either clean up their act or leave. I’m sure being an officer is not an easy job, but there are many who abuse their power. I wish Mr. Warshaw well in his efforts and hopefully for us, change is near. Good read.

Gregg McMillion, San Pablo


In our February 26 theater preview, “Entertaining Violence,” we misspelled the last name of playwright Steve Yockey. And in our February 26 music story “Negativland Samples Itself,” we misspelled Jon Leidecker’s name. Also, we incorrectly stated that Richard Lyons is involved in the group’s current live lineup. It’s actually Leidecker. Also in our Insider’s Guide story “Boutique With a View,” we misstated the role of Shantelle Brumfield. She is a colleague, not a business partner.


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