October 30, 2003

East Brother Island Newsletter- - A Professional Read Worth Looking At

By Fred H. ArmEBrotherLitHse.gif
Be sure to go to the East Brother web site to see their site http://www.ebls.org/index.htm and then read their newsletter http://www.ebls.org/news.htm. It is highly professional, informative and well-written. East Brother Light Station is a beautifully restored Victorian Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast inn perched atop an island in the straits that separate San Francisco and San Pablo Bays. It is operated by a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation for the benefit of the public. You will be glad you took a peek. EBroBBcolor.jpg

Posted by fredarm at 12:01 PM | Comments (1)

October 28, 2003

Which Door Has The Lady and Which Has The Tiger?

By Fred H. Arm
Finally that long-awaited Planning Commission hearing of November 6th is just around the corner. At that hearing it will be determined whether there should be a revocation of the building permit obtained by a developer, Randy Chandler, on 130 East Scenic for building on a sub-standard lot. Mr. Chandler attempted to sell his lot and permit, however, his plan was thwarted when the City Council unanimously voted to hold the hearing before the Planning Commission.

The Planning Commission will make a determination of revocation on two issues—1) Whether the permit issued has been illegally granted without having gone through the necessary variance hearings; and 2) Does the applicant have to go through another design review hearing since the hearing that he attended was not properly noticed to all the neighbors.

Recently, I was contacted by Mr. Chandler. He conceded that his project should have been built on the two adjacent lots he owns rather than the single undersized lot (3,900 sq. ft.). One could always construe this offer for settlement as a victory of sorts; however, the outcome may not be what most people desire. Many neighbors may prefer that the matter be heard at a public hearing as an indicator or warning to the Planning Department that they have exercised too much authority by granting a summary variance with the stroke of pen.

In the event the revocation hearing proceeds as scheduled, two negative situations could arise—1) he could very well have a result favoring his position to build on a lot less than 6,000 square feet; or 2) he could lose the hearing and be compelled to go through the design review process again, thus allowing further community input. Thereafter, in the process of construction on his land, he could very well spitefully remove the possibly endangered Black Walnut trees (juglans hindsii). In either event, the loss to the community could be substantial.

However, if we agreed to a settlement and perhaps were able to persuade Chandler to plan his construction to save the Walnut Trees, it could be a win-win for all. We may not receive the redress some of you yearned for at the public hearing, but we would be able to save the trees and still have the structure built on both his lots as the law provides.

I need to hear from all of you as to how you would like the matter dealt with. Your response would be most appreciated as soon as possible.

Posted by fredarm at 11:24 AM | Comments (1)

October 23, 2003

Logging-The Unkindest Cut II

By Fred H. Arm
About a year ago, I wrote an article entitled “Logging-The Unkindest Cut” condemning the indiscriminate cutting down of about 40 beautiful Monterey Pine trees on two empty lots on Buena Vista Avenue. I protested that Point Richmond has long enjoyed the coolness and the beauty of pine-forested hillsides. The trees bring the flavor of rural countryside to the urban jungle. I suggested that the harmony with nature has been threatened and marred by this so-called march of progress - -the logger’s saw.

The owner, Jay Fenton, claimed that the trees were cut because of Pine pitch tree disease. I maintained that this was fallacious thinking. Leading experts attest that clear-cutting is a drastic remedy and not the preferred treatment. It has also been asserted that the trees needed to be cut so that the land can be easier sold. Whichever the rationale, the community should have been consulted. Not only did the owner cut down 40 some trees on his own property, he cut down several trees belonging to the city as well. Consequently, a great open wound now confronts hapless residents who stroll among the hills.

The new owners of the lots, Karen Kittle of Point Realty fame, apparently had a formal survey done. The boundary markers unmistakably show that at least 4 of the trees are not on their lots, rather they are on City property.

It would seem that an ordinance to monitor tree cutting is long overdue for the Village of Point Richmond. Trees provide communities with many environmental, social, and economic benefits. They filter pollutants, provide shade and homes for animals, create desirable living and working places, increase property value, attract shoppers and businesses, help control storm water runoff and soil erosion, and decrease cooling costs. Such benefits far outweigh the costs when communities manage their forests through a tree program that includes a tree ordinance.

We need to do what we can to save the remaining trees before such wholesale slaughter eventually returns the hills once more to the barren community it was at the turn of the Nineteenth Century.

Posted by fredarm at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2003

Pt. Richmond Mourns Plunge Filmmaker

By Fred H. Arm

Nicolas Armington, 41, the filmmaker of “The Plunge: Time Laps Through History”, drowned yesterday in the deep waters of the Pacific near Ventura. He had been scuba diving with a group off an 85-foot commercial dive boat at about 2:45 pm, when he suddenly surfaced waving his hands. By the time the rescue team reached him, he was already unconscious. CPR was administered to no avail. He was shortly after pronounced dead by the ambulance crew on shore.

Nick was born in New York, an only child following his late father’s footsteps to become a filmmaker. He met his wife, Sari at the 1993 Sundance film festival in Park City, Utah. They married and he moved from Manhattan to California. Sari and Nick started Alchemedia Ltd. in Point Richmond. His mother, Dr. Irene Meister-Armington resides in New York.

He has been described as a hard-working and dedicated filmmaker, with a good sense of humor, although he rarely took life very seriously. Sari said he lived every day like it was his last. Nick was an optimist who believed in the goodness of the human spirit, although not naively so.

Nick and Sari began to make films for public television. Their recent film on Pt Richmond’s Grand Natatorium aired on KQED, profiling the magnificent pool from its opening in 1926 to its closing in the summer of 2001, when a wall bulged unexpectedly. Ever since, residents have been fighting for the building's restoration. The 30-minute documentary profiled 12 swimmers whose ages ranged from two to 92 years old. He will be truly missed. So long Nicolas and thanks for sharing with us your dedication and artistic talents.

Memorial services will take place in the Bay Area and New York.

Posted by fredarm at 09:40 AM | Comments (3)

October 18, 2003

$87 Billion For the Homeless?

by Fred H. Arm
Congress voted overwhelmingly on Friday in favor of President Bush's request for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, handing him a solid mandate for the continued occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. It would be an interesting thought to instead, see the money used to benefit the homeless in America.

Even in a booming economy, at least 2.3 million adults and children, or nearly 1 percent of the U.S. population, are likely to experience a spell of homelessness at least once during a year. (Urban Institute, Feb. 2000) Thus, if we gave every homeless man, woman and child that money, it would amount to $37,826.09 for each such person!

Basic economic theory teaches us that for each dollar injected into the economy, a huge multipler effect translates into an enormous increase in the gross national product. Imagine solving our economic problems and the homeless situation all in one swoop.

Sound too good to be true? It certainly is a provacative thought. What do you think?

Posted by fredarm at 09:00 AM | Comments (2)

New Charter School For Point Richmond

A dynamic group of parents, entrepreneurs, and educators is coming together to develop a new, small-scale public charter school beginning with grade 7 and growing to grade 12. Known as the Richmond Urban Institute, this new-from-the-ground up secondary school will put hands-on civic improvement and leadership training at the heart of the learning process. Theyare seeking a facility in the Pt. Richmond/Marina Bay area that will ultimately accommodate 400 students (66 students per grade level, in classrooms of ~ 22 students each.)

The school will draw on the resources of the whole East Bay—including UC Berkeley––to create internships and service-learning options focused on: Health & Biosciences; Environmental Design & Architecture; and Engineering & Technology. The school could open as early as Fall, 2004––depending on the interest and support of parents & community members. If you have children—or just care deeply about our community’s future

Awfully short notice, but this event will be today October 18th at 10:30 to 1:00 pm at the Baltic at 135 Park Place in Point Richmond. For more information, contact Lana Husser at (510) 232-6885 or LanaHusser@aol.com

Brunch & refreshments will be available for purchase

Posted by fredarm at 07:59 AM | Comments (2)

October 17, 2003

Planning Department Ignores Pleas of Point Richmond Residents

By Fred H. Arm
On the 16th of October, the Planning Department offered their somewhat muddled view of how the Economic Development Agency proposed to develop substandard lots in Richmond. After Lisa Hamburger presented her proposals primarily for the “Infill Program”, the Planning Department was queried regarding some of its technical aspects.

Their responses seemed somewhat ambiguous and less than adequate to make any kind of proposal that far-reaching. After hearing serious presentations concerning the inconsistencies of a blanket citywide ordinance from at least seven speakers from the Point Richmond Community, the Planning Commission chose to totally ignore our concerns. The ordinance they proposed would seem to allow sub-standard lots to be developed throughout all of Richmond, without consideration for the geographic and historical characteristics unique to the Point.

The only redeeming feature was the 5% slope limitation to the ordinance. However, notwithstanding this limitation, the flat areas of Point Richmond would be fair game for low-cost housing developers to push the City’s prepackaged designs through the permitting process without public oversight by the Design Review Board or the need to apply for a variance to the Planning Commission, essentially leaving our flatlands vulnerable to indiscriminant, cheap housing development. Once this operation is in place, I doubt whether it will be long before the powers that be set their sights on lots with more than 5% slope and reconstruct this picturesque village into another Daley City.

Nevertheless, the City Council will still have the last word on whether this proposed ordinance flies. So, keep your eyes peeled for the City Council Agenda that will announce this next battlefront. I will be there. How about you?

Posted by fredarm at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

Arbor Day In Richmond-A Huge Success

By Fred H. Arm

On Wednesday, October 15th, the United States celebrates Arbor Day--a homage to the trees of the world, which are sometimes referred to as the lungs of the Earth. In Richmond, Lana Husser, a petite French teacher at Richmond High School is the dynamic driving force behind the local tree planting observance extraordinaire.

Dozens of eager students from Richmond High, the Richmond Parks department, the Urban Forest Advisory Committee, volunteers, and numerous dignitaries turned out with picks, shovels, and bubbly attitudes to receive numerous trees provided by the City of Richmond Parks Department. The trees were planted in specially pre-dug holes by the students themselves and fitted with watering pipes and support poles. The football team, not to be undone, also planted a number of trees around their playing field.

Ms. Husser has been voluntarily teaching environmental courses to hundreds of students over the years. She personally arranged for the students to clean up a previous waste site behind the campus and had the kids dig a creek bed that eventually was lined with concrete and rocks. The creek water is recycled by a pumping system and flows naturally down the incline over the rocks much as a natural creek bed. The motto at the “Science Academy” is “the creek is the crux of the conversation”. In this de facto academy, whose slogan is “sustainability” and “personal responsibility,” the two creeks flow throughout the curriculum, whether it is biology, chemistry, ecology, history, or social activism—just as they do through the community.

In the winter, the full and rushing water after several days of rain provides a ready lesson in nature’s power and its resiliency. The creek bed holds up particularly well. Despite the winter rains, the bank remains stable, unscarred by mudslides, a solid mantle of vegetation of young trees interspersed with tufts of grass and scrub. The creek is Husser’s outdoor laboratory and it teaches the kids lessons not usually found in books or the classroom.
The students learn that trees are a vital element in the eco-system. Some fascinating Tree Facts are:
· A tree can grow to manufacture five pounds of pure oxygen per day, consume carbon dioxide to fight the “greenhouse effect” that threatens our survival, and provide the cooling equivalent of ten room-size air conditioning units.
· A tree, over a 50-year period, will generate $31,250 worth of oxygen, provide $62,000 worth of air pollution control, and recycle $37,500 worth of water.
· Trees conserve energy; reduce soil erosion, clean the air we breathe, and help protect rivers and streams. If trees are to provide all these benefits, we need to care for the trees we have, and to plant more.

It was particularly remarkable to see the joys of discovery and exploration on the faces of the students in such a low-income area known typically for drive-by shootings and hostile attitudes. Ms Husser has achieved through the shared exploration and studies of nature what social workers do not even begin to accomplish. Our hats are off to you, Lana. Good job—Well done!

Posted by fredarm at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2003


The Mystic River
An Extraordinary Masterpiece, Yet A Bitter Fruit
By Fred H. Arm

The usual Hollywood fare of violence in movies consists of serial car crashes, shootings, beatings, and knifings that most people are pretty much inured to emotionally. Mystic River, however, directed by Clint Eastwood, does not allow your senses to get off that easily. For many, there may be a disturbing price to pay.

The movie focuses on three men who live, love and die in the blue-collar old neighborhood of East Buckingham in Boston. The film opens on the trio as eleven-year old boys playing stickball in the streets. SEAN PENN plays tough-guy Jimmy Markum, KEVIN BACON is Sean Devine, and TIM ROBBINS is Dave Boyle, who is forced to take a ride with two pedophiles who would change all their lives forever. Dave ultimately escapes after a four-day ordeal, however, the emotional scars are there to stay.

Twenty-five years later, the three friends are thrust back together by another trauma—the murder of Jimmy’s 19-year old daughter. Sean, now a cop and his partner Whitey (LAURENCE FISHBURNE) are charged with solving this brutal crime. They must also stay one step ahead of Jimmy, now an ex-con, who is driven to find his daughter’s murderer.

Dave, now barely coping in a fragile marriage to Celeste (MARCIA GAY HARDEN), cannot exorcise the demons of his childhood ordeal. Sean is torn by old loyalties to Jimmy and Dave, yet doggedly gives no quarter in his quest for the truth.

The complex interweaving of the characters as we delve deeper and deeper into their psyches is both riveting and chilling at the same time. Eastwood brilliantly crafts such a heightened sensitivity and emotional involvement, that the effect soon evolves to become like an acid bath upon our nerve endings.

Jimmy’s wife, Annabeth (LAURA LINNEY) presents a chilling performance as a wife standing behind her man against all rational morality. Dave’s wife Celeste carries off much of the conveyed emotion by a simple nod or distressed look that is expertly communicated by this versatile actress.

Every actor, irrespective as to the minority of his or her role, is amazingly well performed and vividly portrayed. All this attention to detail adds immensely to the realism and emotional connection to each of the players. As the drama heightens to its climax, the brutality presented, although tame by objective contemporary cinematic standards, scorches the very fibers of one’s soul, feeling much like falling into ice water in the dead of winter. This is truly a masterpiece of filmmaking, however, for a sensitive and compassionate human being, a searing excursion into the bowels of angst and torment. I would certainly keep the gentle hearted and the children at home.

Posted by fredarm at 10:38 PM | Comments (1)


City Council Oks Revocation Hearing
On the 23rd of September 2003, I brought the agenda item of the lack of proper notice and the issuance of an illegal variance to build upon a sub-standard lot at 130 East Scenic before the City Council. After much discussion and the input from some of you participating neighbors, we achieved a preliminary victory--the Council agreed to have the matter set for a public hearing to consider revocation of the permit before the Planning Commission on the 6th of November 2003. I would now once again enlist your help to speak before this Commission to demonstrate your support for this revocation action.

Proposed Ordinance May Bring Urban Sprawl To Pt Richmond
Sub-Standard Lots - Additionally, as many of you know, residents of the Pt. Richmond Community in the neighborhoods of Pacific, Buena Vista, Water, and Sante Fe streets, have been struggling not to let the City erode the 6,000 square foot minimum size lot zoning ordnance (SFR-2), which ordinance applies to most of the hilly region of Pt Richmond. Deputy City Attorney, Everett Jenkins, has informed me that the Planning Commission will have an open hearing on the over-all sub-standard lot issue. The Planning Department in conjunction with Richmond’s Community & Economic Development Department is eager to eliminate the 6,000 square foot minimum-zoning ordinance. The Commission has scheduled the proposed ordinance to be discussed at an open hearing on the 16th of October 2003, at City Hall.

Infill Program - It seems that there is much more to this October 16th meeting than I have previously learned from the City Attorney’s Office. Judy Battle, at the Planning Department, contends that the thrust of the hearing at the Planning Commission is the brainchild of Lisa Hamburger at the Community & Economic Development. It seems that the Planning Department has in concurrence with the City Council, been instructed to implement the low-cost housing “Infill Program” which will allow developers in the City of Richmond to develop sub-standard lots without needing a variance, design review or other traditional authorization. The plan goes something like this: The developer would select a home design from a number of inexpensive home designs, which have been previously approved by the Design Review Board. The building lots, which almost all are below standard zoning requirements, would be expedited through the planning department without all the usual hurdles and restrictions.

Urban Sprawl - Although low income housing is a worthy goal of the City, unfortunately, their blanket exemptions would allow the indiscriminate development of sub-standard lots, without public oversight, which would also include Pt. Richmond. Such urban sprawl would be a disaster for Pt. Richmond’s designated low-density areas and would likely undermine housing values.

Attendance At Hearings - It is imperative for members of the Pt Richmond Community to attend both these hearings. The more speakers from the community, the better chance we have of defeating the attempt by the Planning Department to trash the zoning ordinance for a 6,000 square foot minimum.

Hearing Dates - The staff report to the Planning Commission is confusing, ambiguous and perhaps misleading. Our presence en masse is necessary at this hearing on the 16th of October as well as the 6th of November to prevent the across-the-board evisceration of our protective zoning ordinances. If anyone would like to see this 20-page report, I would be happy to share it. It is rumored that the Planning Commission is not too pleased with the proposed action; however, I still do not trust them to do the right thing.

Posted by fredarm at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)