Letters to the Editor

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In response to the recent open letter exchange (“Open letter on trashed Encinal trophies,” Dec. 26) it seems apparent to me that this was instigated by the new band director to whom these trophies meant nothing and were clutter in the music room.

No apology can restore this unthinkable action that could almost be considered a criminal act. No other solution in removing  these memorable trophies could be found other than dumping? 

This would have never happened under the watch of Armen Phelps, the former great music director for many years at Encinal High School. The employees responsible for this disgraceful  occurrence must be dumped from Alameda Unified School District just as the priceless trophies were dumped from all memory.


Ed Mirzaian

Cities are doing everything except actually housing the homeless. This is partly because land is very expensive in most California cities. The second challenge is that if a government agency tries to build practical housing for people who desperately need it, the cost is prohibitive. Red tape, little leniency as to our stringent building codes, union and trade requirements and no political will to just do what needs to be done.

Kobe, Japan, suffered 6,433 deaths in the Kobe Earthquake of 1995. To make things even more horrifying, water and gas mains burst, as in San Francisco in 1906, where many people also died from fire in their wood framed houses, or in trying to escape. 

Our team was summoned to help within weeks of the earthquake in Kobe. We built 300 single-story row houses in four months, and they were occupied days afterwards. Features included raised foundations (necessary in concrete urban areas), shoji doors (called pocket doors here) to save space, tatami mats and overhead storage in the living room, as on an airplane. Other specifications included all steel framing and roof beams, steel roofing, Japanese deep tubs, kitchens and more. They were 12 feet by 24 feet, but had backyard fenced patios and no wasted space.

Occupants were mostly elderly Japanese ladies, who visited us almost every day with flowers and greeting cards. Many of the homeless here in nearby Oakland are victims of bad luck and the absence of jobs that pay anywhere near what is needed to rent a small apartment in this area.

We could build these in cities like Los Angeles or Oakland, and build each unit for less than what a city would pay for a fire-trap trailer. The residents would have pride in their homes, with off-grid electricity and potable water with septic tanks. Onsite job training and counseling would be available; prevailing wage and some trade certifications could be waived, in order to make the homes affordable.

Anything is better than what is happening now in Oakland and Los Angeles. Our proposal would eliminate trash accumulation, raw sewage and, especially, despair. The framing, roofs, doors, appliances and other items can be removed and reassembled or recycled if the site is reclaimed. Thousands of homeless could be housed and, as in Kobe, land is available on schoolyards in areas where student populations have crashed.

We are currently busy setting up to rebuild Paradise, Calif. with noncombustible and fire-rated materials, but are happy to work as consultants. Americans put a man on the Moon. This problem is solvable, and the execution doable. If, that is, we really want to do so. 


Mike Roddy, Butte Built Better

There’s been a lot of talk regarding the possibility of modifying or even eliminating Measure A in order to allow developers to set up shop and build high-rise and infill housing which will drastically increase Alameda’s population size and density. 

While increasing the availability of housing may be desirable, I don’t believe that this should be done without first insuring that Alameda’s infrastructure can adequately and safely accommodate the projects being considered. Projects that will serve to increase population density and demand for public services.

As our population has grown over the past few years we’ve been encountering increasing gridlock on our roads both leading into and out of our community. Some argue that this can be ameliorated by increasing the availability of public transportation. 

Unfortunately, in order to make this proposed solution cost effective we would have to have a significantly larger population available to support it financially. 

So, which do we do first: increase the population and live with increasing congestion and gridlock? Or build more public transportation that isn’t financially sustainable absent the larger and denser population of commuters that would be needed to pay taxes and fares to support it? 

We should also consider that our current infrastructure isn’t adequate to allow optimal response in the event of a major disaster such as an earthquake centered closer to Alameda than was the Loma Prieta quake, or flood related to rising sea levels or a major fire. We know that the water level in the bay is projected to continue to rise to levels that may lead to emergent flooding.  

Consider that given the prevalence of wooden construction found in most of our neighborhoods and the prevailing winds across the Island that a devastating fire is not an impossibility. Add to this the fact that we don’t have a reserve supply of water, and hospital beds will be in short supply.

The risk of experiencing many of the inconveniences and dangers attendant to increasing our population density can be lessened if we first optimize our infrastructure. Perhaps additional bridges or another set of tubes crossing the estuary. Perhaps insulate the overhead power lines that pass through the extensive foliage throughout the city. Create redundancy in our water supply system. Or, even identify areas for helipads to support medical transportation and other logistic demands that arise in the event of a major disaster.

City staff has published an evaluation of a proposal to increase population density by modifying or, more likely eliminating Measure A. This will be the topic of discussion during the Planning Board’s Monday, Jan. 13, meeting. 

The evaluation that gives virtually no consideration for the risks and other negative aspects of increasing our population density can be found on the city’s website. I encourage concerned Alamedans to read the evaluation and to attend and participate in the Jan. 13 meeting.


Jay Garfinkle