Letters for the Week of October 9

Readers sound off on BART workers' wages, CEQA reform, and Bill Aboudi bashing.

“Why BART’s Wage Offer Doesn’t Include a Raise,” News, 9/25

Operators Deserve a Decent Wage

Thanks for this analysis. The rest of the media is horrified to find that train operators pull in a decent wage, maybe because journalists at this point do not. But that’s no reason to try and make sure no one can afford to live here (so long as there are two such wages in a family anyway).

Pamela Drake, Oakland

BART Workers Don’t Deserve More

Very tricky to talk about after-tax earnings rather than just what people are being paid. I’ve never seen that kind of sleight of hand in reporting on wages in any other context, ever. Hoping that most readers won’t spot the difference, perhaps? But you fail to answer the question as to why the already well-paid BART employees should expect an across-the-board raise at all. My raises (beyond inflation, and most of the time not even that) have always been based upon performance and promotions. Why should BART be any different?

I’d be much more interested in working to support private-sector unions, like unionizing Wal-Mart to bring those truly underpaid workers to a fraction of what BART workers make and receive in heath and pension benefits. BART workers will continue to make a “decent” wage no matter what the outcome of the talks are. Nothing I’ve seen riding BART has convinced me they somehow deserve any more.

Patrick Emmert, Oakland

“Oakland Rent Laws to be Debated,” News, 9/25

Free Market Versus Evil Landlord

The good news is that the free market ensures that even an evil landlord cannot charge more than the actual worth of the rental, or he or she will not be able to fill the units.

Gary Baker, San Leandro

Making Landlords Into Slumlords

My only concern is that this will lead to landlords disinvesting in the units. In other words, it will create slumlords out of landlords.

Moises Aceves, Oakland

“Weak CEQA Reform Bill is Not That Bad,”
Seven Days, 9/25

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

What a surprise to open up the Express and find Robert Gammon’s paean to growth. His article is so full of misunderstanding and misinformation as to invite just one question about premises. He states that “the whole point of smart growth is to encourage people to live near their workplaces or mass transit so they won’t need cars.” I think he’s missed the point. With a broader perspective, isn’t the whole point of smart growth to build more housing?

He is just talking about the details, or “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” and most of those details are open to direct challenge. But is this what the citizens of the East Bay and the Bay Area want? Do most current residents feel our lives will be improved by adding two million people to the Bay Area in the next few decades?

Searle Whitney, Berkeley

Dumb Smart Growth Fad

The “smart growth” mantra is all the rage with planners and, not surprisingly, developers, who of course don’t want to provide parking for new housing units because that leaves more room for housing and profit. San Francisco is gentrifying rapidly and — surprise — the gentry have cars. In San Francisco, the massive Market and Octavia plan and UC’s big housing development a block off Octavia limit the amount of parking that developers can provide for the new housing units, while not providing any more money for our Muni system. Let them ride bikes!

Once you’ve eliminated traffic from CEQA as an impact, what’s left? Like the liberal/progressive infatuation with costly train projects, the dumb smart growth fad will actually harm the environment.

Rob Anderson, San Francisco

No Parking Means Saturated Streets

In the real world, the lack of provided parking results in more cars parked on the already saturated streets. People who can do without cars already do for the most part. Developer refusal to provide parking for residents of their building is just a matter of foisting the true cost of their project onto the surrounding neighborhood. Enough with the pieties promoting developer welfare in the guise of the smart growth fad, which will eventually go the way of the freeway fad.

I’ll be explicit in not supporting the retroactive punitive Manhattanization of the Bay Area, which is just as ghastly as the equivalent bay-filling from which Save the Bay saved us. In real terms, in, say my neighborhood in Oakland, we had an actual fatal shooting because two tenants were fighting over a parking space, which the landlord did not provide. Street parking is already saturated, and there is no reason current residents should have to pay the price for the latest green-flag-wrapping developer’s get-rich-quick scheme. And we’re half a mile from BART, so it only gets worse near the “transit villages.”

Also — besides overlooking the fact that if people want to move to Manhattan, God bless them, but we live here because it’s not like that — even when one is fortunate enough to be able to drive very little, have a telecommute or transit-friendly job, and be able-bodied and able to do a lot of errands on foot, there eventually comes a time when you have to conduct business or visit friends in a place that requires a car. Even if you drive once a month, you still need the car, and car sharing, while a boon, may not be a fit. You need a place that goes with your residence to keep your car without burdening your neighbors. Not burdening the neighbors is a consideration that seems to be omitted from this discussion all too often, except to brand those who advocate it NIMBYs.

Mary Eisenhart, Oakland

Nothing Wrong with NIMBYs

There is nothing wrong with NIMBYs in our ever increasing statist reality, where normal everyday citizens have less and less voice about what goes on around them in their communities. NIMBYs have always served a significant purpose. Normally if they were wrong they would lose their actions against new projects. But NIMBYs routinely have challenged projects that would only enrich favored, connected developers, like, for example, those who might be linked up with [state Senate leader Darrell] Steinberg on his new bill. Also, NIMBYs are usually dealing with growth issues that might change their immediate environment and their lives, and they were there first, or they wouldn’t be NIMBYs, would they? If I were in an expensive condo and smart growth advocates started circling like sharks and they wanted to build another condo alongside mine that would block my views that I already paid for, I would fight, too. Absolutely! Smart growth is important but not every smart growth project is smart! Not even close. Your article is clearly biased and I wonder if you might be sleeping with operatives of the growth lobby, maybe the same ones Steinberg is sleeping with?

Kenneth White, West Sonoma County

“The Five Best Cups of Coffee Right Now,” Taste, 9/25

Wasted On My Palate

This was moderately helpful for me, a longtime Peet’s drinker, and yes, ex-Peet’s barista as well. I don’t really have a well-developed palate for coffee, and when fruitiness or certain flavors are described with nuance, I just roll my eyes and think, “it’s coffee.”

I’m aware that this third wave of roasters is approaching coffee roasting differently, not roasting as big a quantity for a shorter time and with what might be called “medium” roasting, purportedly allowing the flavor of each individual bean variety to shine more.

Sorry, wasted on my palate. The coffee is either bitter or palatable, and I’m not able to discern nuances. In any case, I’m going to try the third wavers like Bicycle, Four Barrel, and Verve and see what’s what. I’m guessing that it’s all just going to taste like reasonably good coffee.

Chris Juricich, Berkeley

“Oakland to Spend $1.5 Million to Help Influential Contractor,” Full Disclosure, 9/18

Below-the-Belt Aboudi Bashing

I guess the reason that I and so many others in West Oakland are having a hard time with the below-the-belt Bill [Aboudi]-bashing that’s going on — the constant musical chairs, finger-pointing, and finger-giving game out at the army base — is because those community members who have voted consistently in favor of retaining Oakland Maritime Support Services, Pacific Coast Container, and several other of the longtime ancillary maritime services that we know to be critical for efficient port operation feel shortchanged by the disregard and backhands that those worthwhile businesses appear to be receiving in Oakland’s ostensibly community-friendly base reuse process.

Those of us who serve on the congressionally authorized West Oakland Community Advisory Group (WOCAG) wish, as always throughout this process, to honor the truckers and other maritime ancillary support businesses that have unfailingly bent over backward to accommodate the community’s needs with respect to pollution, truck routes, overnight street parking, and all the other difficulties that we’ve had to deal with being next to the fourth or fifth largest port on the West Coast, or whatever lesser rank the Port of Oakland has been consigned to these days. Since 1996, WOCAG has wanted to see Oakland’s local businesses be the first on the base, not run out of town, edged out by big business interests, city shenanigans, and unfair competition.

Yet here we are, after nearly two decades of due deliberation, regular monthly meetings, and official WOCAG recommendations to the East Bay Conversion and Reinvestment Commission, Oakland Base Reuse Authority, Community & Economic Development Agency, and a whole host of other interloping agencies, and what have we got? Big business squeezing small business off the base, even to the point of pushing many of the original support companies out of business, and meanwhile everyone’s supposed to be satisfied that the priorities of the Base Closure Act have been satisfied? Or that all those years spent by longtime WOCAG members weren’t spent in vain? Or is it that the usual smoke-and-mirrors game that nearly every governmental body on the planet plays with its citizens is just the way of things, so we should now all shut up and write off those years of trying to make the base a job-generating, environment friendly, port-supporting, economy-building project just because one union or another has a gripe with Bill Aboudi?

I wish I could believe that claims of pollution filed by the out-of-town, out-of-area, outer space group were justified or sincere and not simply self-serving. If these same predators were out there suing everyone at the base, port included, for what they purport to believe are violations, then maybe they’d have some credibility in their actions. But attacking Bill alone of all the operators at the base naturally makes almost anyone think that something else must be afoot here. To paraphrase Oscar Levant, beneath the phony baloney lies the real baloney. 

When the Maritime Air Quality Improvement Plan was underway and those most concerned with the effect that port-generated pollution was having on the lungs of West Oakland kids and seniors, RiverWatch wasn’t in the room, but Bill sure was, along with many other truckers and maritime support groups.

I’ve admired Bob Gammon’s incisive reportage ever since he was up at the Oakland Tribune and began looking more deeply into the port and its shortcomings than any reporter before or since. So I know that the follow-up article he must be working on right now will be more than fair and balanced, maybe even to the point of including some sort of community context when next describing why daylong backups at the terminals are all somehow Bill’s doing and not at all a problem that an organization as mighty as the Teamsters could have easily dispensed with long ago.

Steve Lowe, Oakland

“Alameda County DA: We Don’t Want Oaklanders in Alameda,” News, 9/4

Keeping Out the Black

As someone who grew up in Alameda, graduated from Encinal High School, has lived in East, West, and Central Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Moraga, etc. I can honestly say that keeping “Oakland” out of Alameda is synonymous with keeping out a historically black population. 

Think this is “race-baiting?” Try looking at some of the historical footage of the west side of Alameda (KKK rallies, etc). I seem to recall viewing an “original” home title that specifically prohibited any “dark skinned” person from even cutting the grass on what in most communities would be a small working/middle class home. 

I’m unsure of where O’Malley came from, but Webster Street, especially around the tube, has historically been a shit hole. Even before the closure of the Navy base, Webster was a haven for drunken debauchery, etc. A well-run, Christian-owned burger stand, paying a living wage seems preferable to the Days Inn and all-you-can-eat buffet, poorly lit used car lot, and other eyesores that presently dominate. 

Also, O’Malley, most of the customers at In-N-Out are middle-working-class folks. The thugs frequent Jack in the Box, 1/4 LB Giant Burger, Nation’s, or Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.

Ronald Corbett MacBaker, Oakland


Our October 2 news story, “Who’s Jacking Up Housing Prices in West Oakland?,” mistakenly attributed two quotes to Margaretta Lin, special projects director in the City of Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency. It was actually Maurice Weeks, campaign coordinator for Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, who said: “[The activity of investors in Oakland’s housing market is] transferring homes where people have lived a long time, raised families, been part of the community, to younger folks, mostly white.” Weeks also said “[investors are] taking advantage of the [housing] crisis to accelerate gentrification.”

In our October 9 What the Fork column, “Oasis Food Market Plots a New Restaurant,” we misspelled the last name of ice cream maker Kim Byers.


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