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Karma’s a Bitch (Opinion)

By Carol Denney
Wednesday November 21, 2012 - 12:13:00 AM

Don’t miss it: the special “worksession” Tuesday, November 27th, 5:30 pm at the City Council Chambers (Martin Luther King at Center) where the Measure S losers weep together over Telegraph Avenue. You’ll enjoy the “Options and Opportunities" report with the usual; wifi and sparkling lights for shoppers, crackdowns on panhandlers, and the usual remake of People’s Park.  

Karma’s a bitch, said a friend last night who anticipated just this kind of excessive focus not on the city commercial districts in the most economic distress (according to the most recent city reports), but on Telegraph Avenue because, well, the biggest bear at the town picnic is always UC Berkeley, and that bear gets what it wants at the Berkeley City Council. 

What my friend meant was the bombed-out devastation at three corners of Haste and Telegraph was avoidable, even predictable. Cody’s Bookstore thrived under Fred and Pat Cody until acquired and mismanaged by Andy Ross, who thought expanding to 4th Street and a store in San Francisco was a great idea in the middle of the crisis in book and newspaper publishing and who turned the easements the Cody’s had deliberately created for street life into war zones. 

Across the intersection, the former Berkeley Inn’s residents in one wing were informed that the building would be torched the night before it happened – the arsonists wanted to avoid loss of life if at all possible. To this day no one has been prosecuted for the deliberate arson. Ken Sarachan, who bought the now-vacant lot, has tried repeatedly to build replacement housing and retail on the lot which previous city councils turned down. The current council is now suing him instead of working constructively with one of the few merchants on Telegraph who had the integrity to take a stand against the lunacy of making sitting down a crime.  

And then there’s the other corner, where any previous tenant can tell you tales of the mold, the electrical wiring and habitability issues that could have cost lives. The city of Berkeley had ample opportunity to insist that there were enough code and safety violations to warrant serious intervention, but somehow didn’t find the time. 

But they’re taking time next week, right before Christmas, to listen to the anti-sitting law promoters whine that they need a $100,000 grant, some of which comes from the City of Berkeley, to address their crying need for more profits. Don’t miss it! It’s the best show in town.