Public Comments on the Gilman Freeway Fields project/East Shore Park process

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LESS THAN TASTEFUL ....Editors, Daily Planet:

How quickly we forget, so let me be the canary here.
The outrage expressed by letter writers over the proposal to develop the parking lot at Golden Gate Fields, is of course heartening. At least some of us still oppose the deification of sales tax revenues. But before you glorify the local Sierra Club and Citizens for the Eastshore State Park, can I remind you of their less than tasteful role in all this?

In August 2004, at a public meeting, Norman LaForce, presented the local Sierra Club’s proposal for the development of this very site. LaForce introduced the 325,000-square-foot plan now being proposed. An upscale Fourth Street-type retail and hotel complex, smack on the lips of the state park which LaForce has been so vocal about protecting from off-leash dogs and unleashed art.

The deal which LaForce, CESP, local politicians, Magna Corp. and East Bay Regional Parks crafted involved the ball field portion south of Golden Gate Fields. A bunch of extremely high powered lawyers, businessmen and Sacramento style politicians working together for the betterment of all, right? The payoff for the Sierra Club and other so called environmentalists is that they have wrung some concessions from the developers about “open space” and “habitat preservation.”

But at what cost? To the quality of life for the human beings of this entire area? The reality is that it is the Sierra Club which has brought us the mall at Golden Gate Fields, which will produce more toxic emissions from cars, parking garages, traffic, plastic and Styrofoam than we can possibly imagine. But the really toxic emissions are from those posing as protectors of the environment, when the only environment they care about is that which precludes human beings.
Jill Posener

NO DEAL,
Letter to the Editor, Berkeley Daily Planet:
This is a response to Jill Posner’s letter claiming that the Sierra Club has made a deal with Magna/Caruso over development at the Albany Waterfront. I don’t know where Posner gets her information, but it is very, very wrong. The Sierra Club opposes the Magna/Caruso mall. It is completely contrary to the Sierra Club’s vision for the future Albany waterfront. If it is approved, we will lose our opportunity to get a real public shoreline with real public access for public use and enjoyment and we will keep the shoreline from becoming the private front yard to a huge shopping mall. Stopping the mall will also mean the chance for a real off leash dog park. If we stop the mall, we also stop Magna’s plans to build a race track and casino or “racino” as Magna’s CEO, Frank Stronach, likes to call his future vision for his race tracks.

The track is on its last legs; it cannot survive without the mall and a casino operation. Once it goes, we can plan the future the way we want it, not the way Rick Caruso, a major George W. Bush financial contributor, wants for us. (Indeed, why should we help get him the profits to finance his support for the ultra-conservative agenda in the United States?)

The proposed Magna/Caruso Mall also threatens the economic vitality of Berkeley’s Fourth Street, Solano Avenue, and the El Cerrito Plaza. Just as a Walmart sucks the economic vitality of local business out of a community, so will this upscale Super Walmart Mall (a Caruso Super W). The Sierra Club urges all residents of the East Bay to oppose the Magna/Caruso Super W Mall.

Norman La Force
Chair, Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter
East Bay Public Lands Committee

DRAWING CONCLUSIONS nov 1, 2005
Editors, Daily Planet:
It really depends on which Norman LaForce you choose to believe. The one who makes statements in public and on record, or the one that denies them.

In the Aug. 17 2004 edition of the Daily Planet the report goes “The Sierra Club’s Norman LaForce floated the organization’s own plans for the race track site, contrasting Magna’s proposal (which was for 600,000 square feet) with the (Sierra) club’s proposal for a much smaller 325,000-square-foot hotel and shopping area—which would include ballfields at the base of Gilman Street.”

Norman is on record as one of the most forceful opponents of off-leash dog parks and in his response refers to the already heavily overused Point Isabel. However dogwalkers and artists at the Albany Landfill attempted to have meaningful discussions with LaForce and the State Park Planners and were rebuffed at every turn. Norman did at one point tell me privately that he “could save the art” as long as Albany Let It Be would abandon their commitment to protecting 20 years of responsible off-leash access at the Albany Waterfront.

This visceral dislike of dogs and the people who love them is partly what prompted Norman and Mayor Tom Bates to have a meeting with Jean Siri, our exemplary area representative on the board of East Bay Regional Park District, and suggest that perhaps she was getting a little old for the job and perhaps a younger man, LaForce, might be better in the post. This led to Jean’s public comment, reported in the media, that Berkeley’s mayor was both ageist and sexist.

Most politicians fearing the loss of Sierra Club votes are pretty much held to LaForce’s way or no way. He has said to more than one listener that wildlife values trump human needs. LaForce is a lawyer who defends the insurance industry against claims by little humans like you and me.
Draw your own conclusions.
Jill Posener

SPORTS FIELDS
Editors, Daily Planet:
If L A Wood has anything to support his/her idea that there is such poor air quality to the west of Interstate 80 at the location where the city is proposing to build the much needed new sports fields that no one should exercise there, please provide it. The city is normally exceedingly cautious about such things. Lots of joggers, bikers, kite flyers and dog walkers currently use the pedestrian bridge, frontage road trail and Chavez Park, not to mention the jockeys who work out every morning at the track.

If all LA Wood has is an opinion, so what? Every bay boater knows that the prevailing summertime winds are from the northwest except before an incoming storm when the wind rotates to come from the south. Rarely in the winter there is a north wind. I believe that an off-shore easterly breeze is extremely rare in this area especially in the summer when the fields would be in use. Because of the prevailing northwesterly, the air at the bay shore has traveled a fetch of thousands of miles over the ocean and in my experience is always deliciously fresh at the race track and Chavez Park. It is what is so exhilarating about those places.

Dennis White

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