View from a Downtown Apartment, Sierra Club Responds to Critics
View from a Downtown Apartment
The other evening my 21 month old great-granddaughter Maeve came to dinner with her parents. As she gazed out the window of my downtown Berkeley apartment, she said "Look, look, moon up in the sky". At first I was enchanted to think she was already contemplating the universe and then it struck me that, if we don't vote responsibly against Measure R, soon there will be no view of the moon to fill her with wonder.
Downtown Shattuck Avenue Resident
An Open Letter to Victoria Peirotes
Re: An Open Letter Responding to a Solicitation from the Sierra Club East Bay Chapter
Thank you for your past support of the Sierra Club. We feel it is important to respond to your concerns as outlined in your "open letter" in the Daily Planet, as they have been echoed by other Berkeley residents and Sierra Club members.
First, we did not take any money in return for endorsing Measure R. We made our decision independently, after discussion amongst the elected leadership of the Northern Alameda County Group (all unpaid volunteers.) We are supporting Measure R for environmental policy reasons only. Measure R is a vision for downtown Berkeley that includes much of what the Sierra Club has for years been advocating for in the Downtown Area Planning (DAP) process, specifically :
- A plan for a vibrant pedestrian plaza along Center Street between Oxford and Shattuck, with Center closed to automotive traffic except for emergencies and for deliveries at certain times of the day (the "Walter Hood proposal" for Center Street - adopted by City Council independently of Measure R).
- Establishment of a transportation fund to provide enhanced transit services and an open-space fund.
- An affordable-housing requirement (as much as 20% on-site for some buildings).
- The requirement of “LEED Gold” designation in new buildings—among the highest environmental building standards—including such features as passive solar, recycling of storm water, energy efficiency, and green roofs.
- “Unbundled” parking and housing which requires that residential units and parking spaces be rented out separately, so that residents are not required to pay for parking, and parkers will pay their share of costs.
- The principle of conditioning any new density in the downtown on the provision of environmental amenities.
Regarding density, which is admittedly a controversial issue, the Sierra Club has advocated throughout the downtown planning process for moderate increases in density, as long as the increases are specifically tied to provision of substantial environmental and transit amenities. We believe that the ballot measure provides this linkage. We also see a clear link between a moderate increase in density and reducing climate-change-causing emissions, primarily from automobiles, as people will not be forced to commute into Berkeley from far-away places on a daily basis for work or study, if they live downtown.
On balance, the Club believes that the positive accomplishments that it has pushed for and achieved make Measure R worthy of support. Moreover, we will continue to push for stronger wording in the next phase as the city develops zoning-amendment language.
Chair, Northern Alameda County Group
Sierra Club, S.F. Bay Chapter
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In-Fill Housing and Measure R
In the two and half years I served on Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board (1998–2000), we approved projects with many hundreds of new units downtown, most of which have since been built. So the idea that in-fill housing is somehow not happening under current standards is simply untrue.
And if Council had adopted either the DAPAC plan for downtown (which reflected hundreds of hours of community process and genuine compromises) or the plan Councilmember Arreguin later proposed, there would also be additional in-fill housing, but it would come with enforceable requirements for community benefits, such as an Open Space Fund, affordable housing, fair wages, and green building standards and amenities, not the “wish list” of Measure R’s “plan to have a plan,” and it would come without gutting protections for landmarks.
The truth is we could already have had a greener downtown plan resulting in greater density with community benefits (and without compromising quality of life in nearby neighborhoods) if the Council majority hadn’t opted instead to place Measure R on the ballot. Since UC has in theory agreed to abide by the standards of whatever plan is adopted, it’s quite possible that the increased height limits and weakening of landmarks protections proposed by R will simply serve to give the University the green light to build higher office buildings downtown, which can hardly be considered green!
Anyone contemplating voting for Measure R needs to understand that it contains poison pills (requirements gutting the landmarks preservation ordinance downtown and increasing heights) that tie the Council’s hands on the very aspects that are so controversial in our community. All these poison pills will do is guarantee another citizen referendum of whatever plan this “plan to have a plan” results in, thereby delaying the adoption of a real green plan and subverting attempts to bring the community together, quite possibly for years. Anyone who thinks passing Measure R will somehow put a quick end to the to-date lengthy process to come up with a green downtown plan isn’t paying attention!
It’s too bad that the Sierra Club didn’t have the information on the big developer dollars pouring into the Yes on R campaign before they took their position. No on R! Enough of greenwashing!
Former Chair, ZAB
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Another Reason Why You Should Vote NO on Measures H and I
There is now convincing evidence that the proponents of Measures H and I are removing No-on-H-and-I signs. This is a tactic that was employed in the 2008 campaign for Measure LL, when signs and banners opposing the Measure were removed. (The Measure would have gutted Berkeley's Landmark Preservation Ordinance and thus given developers additional freedom to do as they pleased in this city.) But Measure LL was defeated, and so perhaps the use of the same shameful tactics by proponents of Measures H and I is a sign that these Measures, too, will be defeated. Let us hope so.
Just in case you haven't been following the battle over these Measures: opponents feel that both Measures are vaguely-worded and amount to a blank check for the School District to once again do as it pleases with taxpayer money. Consider that there are no project-by-project estimates for most of the wonderful-sounding projects listed in Measure I. And yet the District somehow knows that the total cost of these projects will be $210 million! (Plus several hundred million in interest payments.)
Perhaps stealing the opposition's signs is only inevitable in a campaign aimed at getting taxpayers to support such financial chicanery.
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Yes on 24
On November 2nd, we have a chance to do what so many of us have been dreaming about. Follow the money, we’ve been told.. well, that’s what Proposition 24, the Tax Fairness Act is about. Though its opponents try to present it as a bad deal for small business and employees, in fact, it has nothing to do with small businesses. The loopholes this prop is attempting to repeal address only big business. This is an opportunity to get the top 2% to begin to pay their fair share. We’re turning into cattle, going along with the deception and battle plans of the corporations that control the airwaves and most of our politicians. It’s increasingly difficult to read between the lines - and that’s exactly what they want. Don’t fall for it, Yes on Prop 24.
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Keep Berkeley Schools Beautiful!
Some of us remember what it was like in the 1990’s, before we had a parcel tax for school maintenance here in Berkeley. There were too few people and almost no supplies to keep up with the demands of maintaining 100 school buildings and extensive grounds. Thanks to generous support of our taxpayers, we were able to pass a maintenance parcel tax nearly 10 years ago, which we hope to renew this fall.
The current state of Berkeley School facilities is a testament to the unwavering commitment of our community to put schools first. Berkeley offers bright and functional school buildings, sports fields and playgrounds. Your parcel tax dollars have paid for landscaping, playground equipment, shade and blind replacements, upgrades to security, heating and lighting systems, stage curtains, sound systems, floor resurfacing and window repairs, to name just a few of the hundreds of projects we’ve completed in the last decade. As a five-year member of the citizen’s oversight committee for this parcel tax, I have been impressed with the efforts of the district maintenance department to work cooperatively and transparently with school staff, parents and community members to keep our campuses in good working order.
In light of all the progress we have made in making our school facilities great, let’s not turn our backs on our schools now. I hope you will join me in voting “Yes!” on Measures H & I for Berkeley Schools.
BUSD Parent and Taxpayer
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Poor Editor, you wasted good money for a cartoon that's just what he wants. You probably aren't in bed with Sam, but I'll bet there's some footsie going on under the table, right?