To the Editor:
It is time to set the record straight. Tom Bates is campaigning around Berkeley claiming that his wife Loni Hancock is responsible for things that the mayor did, like starting the Downtown Arts and Theater District. He says his wife secured the Vans auto shop building on Addison Street so that the Berkeley Repertory Theater could expand. None of what Bates is saying is true. The real story is that in August of 1990, the Rent Board was trying to get the elderly owner of the Vans building to register his numerous rental units throughout the city. Berkeley Rep wanted to expand and asked the then Mayor Hancock for assistance in obtaining the building. However, the owner of Vans disliked and distrusted Hancock and her cohorts so much that he refused to negotiate with her.
The only person the owner was willing to talk to was Betty Olds, whom he considered to be fair and who served on the Rent Board at the time. Betty was able to put together a deal for the transfer of the Vans property and the registration of his rental units in exchange for a partial waiver of penalties. However, when the final deal went to the Rent Board for a vote, the majority would not vote for it. They didn’t want to waive any of the penalties against the elderly owner. In the final hour, Florence McDonald had the foresight and vision to see that approving this deal was in the best interests of the city and she changed her vote, which allowed the deal to be approved. If it had been left up to Hancock, Vans would not house the Berkeley Rep today and the Arts District never would have been created.