Public Comment

Why Not Rational Growth? An Open Letter to the Mayor and City Council of Berkeley

Phil Allen, citizen since ‘70, resident in District 1
Monday November 30, 2015 - 03:11:00 PM

By the convening of Tuesday (December 1) evening’s Work Session and Council meeting, well over thirty hearings and agenda items before the Council, the ZAB and various commissions on the matter of building 2211 Harold Way will have been heard..well more than they wanted, or anticipated. 

Of all the gatherings of facts—read and unread--presented by the concerned citizenry in the past few years at these sessions, the fact of this persistence stands out. 2211 Harold Way is a symbol of a struggle between rational growth and surrender to a clutch of vain and potent builder/investors/liars for whom capital profit is the only consideration. 

A rational plan for just growth would not wash its hands of those many who will be dislocated to God-only-knows-where because of of untenable rents fostered by the ‘market rate’ philosophy behind virtually all new housing construction in town. It would also keep what works, and works well, for the community. Specifically, the impending loss of the economically-magnetic Shattuck Cinemas was what initiated the outcry around 2211. An agreement to keep them was, as it’s turning out, seen by the developer as a challenge to eliminate them entirely. 

Instead, a happy alliance by council, board and commission majorities and the dictating developer/owner faction seem hell bent not only by replacing one renting population with another currently able to afford steep rents (while paying off student loans) but quartering them in ‘luxury’ units which are rather less than luxurious..or even roomy. 

Keeping Berkeley “just as it is” is simply not the idea behind the principled opposition to 2211 Harold Way or its underlying intents. The dereliction, blight and dis-use--often perversely maintained for tax benefit--seen at street level is as unwanted, and un-civilized, as the permanent towering blight of 2211 Harold Way and possible followers is sure to become. 

I urge the Council to send the proposal back to the Zoning Adjustment Board for further attention focused on the marshaling of current facts and requirements. I would also encourage councilors to rent (not buy) pied-a-terres in those recently-erected buildings, to get a good idea of what most of you support.