Letters to the Editor

  • Tuesday March 28, 2006
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Jerry Brown's evolution

It surely won't come as any surprise to Oakland residents – those most familiar with Jerry Brown's most recent incarnation as mayor – that he is silent on the subject of gay marriage ["Brown MIA on marriage issue," March 23]. While some may remember the more libertarian, KPFA-era Brown who ran for president to the left of Clinton, as mayor he morphed into a predictable pro-business, pro-development promoter of luxury condos for yuppies and weakened environmental laws.

Jerry Brown has always been about promoting himself first of all, evolving as necessary (famously, anti-Proposition 13 and then pro) to keep himself in the game. No surprise, then, when Mayor Newsom took the courageous and politically risky stand of allowing gay marriages in San Francisco, Brown ducked the issue, and does still. As the typical finger-to-the-wind politician, once the public overwhelmingly embraces marriage equality for lesbians and gays, Brown will be right there taking credit.

Another explanation for Brown's wariness of gay issues may be the sniggering rumors in the past about his relationship with his longtime best pal Jacques Barzaghi – now exiled as Brown makes his latest high-profile bid for statewide office. Brown had, improbably, appointed Barzaghi to a high-paying city position in Oakland, finally sending him packing after sexual harassment complaints by fellow city employees (female) against the much-married Barzaghi. Not coincidentally, perhaps, in Brown's public makeover was his marriage to his longtime girlfriend and former Gap executive.

Search in vain for the bold, innovative Brown of old who might have actually taken a courageous decision such as extending the rights and responsibilities of marriage to lesbians and gays. The current Brown is too busy thinking about No. 1. Empowering him with election to attorney general is not likely to embolden him about anything other than his continuing political advancement.

Robert Brokl

Oakland, California

Good urban planning needed

It's exciting to have so many potentially good urban-infill, mixed-use projects on the horizon ["Castro set for building boom," March 23]. I hope that the various neighborhood groups involved will play hardball with the project sponsors and insist on good urban planning principles including:

â�" Inclusion of at least 20 percent below market housing on site. This is the only way to preserve economic diversity in our neighborhood.

â�" Reduced or no parking. These projects are adjacent to multiple transit lines and modes. Parking places are incentives to own cars, which crowd our already-at-capacity streets. This is not suburbia. Do we want the city to resemble Paris or Hayward? Let's use our precious space for housing, not parking. Are you listening, Bevan?

â�" City Car Share (or other car share) pods. Tenants and neighbors can share cars for errands without the high costs of owning one.

â�" Green building. We can reduce energy consumption and pollution with smart building.

â�" Apartments, not lofts. Lofts are a waste of space and heat. They're so 1990s. It's time to move on.

â�" Partially subsidized condos for first-time buyers. The need for affordable housing can't be stressed enough.

â�" Active street frontages. Blank walls and parking lots kill the vitality of a business district. Fifteen-foot high retail spaces at street level reflect and honor the scale of the Victorian and Edwardian neighbors.

â�" Great architecture, great architects. Ugly, value engineered buildings (like at 15th and Market) and ersatz Victorians degrade our neighborhood and insult our intelligence. We have some world-class architects in the city. Let's utilize them.

Good planning keeps our city exciting, and neighborhood-serving businesses help keep the Castro neighborhood pedestrian friendly. We have a great opportunity here, and we have the right to say how we want our neighborhoods to grow. Let's not blow it!

Rob Bregoff

San Francisco

Imagine real change

We applaud Matthew S. Bajko's coverage about the opportunity for smart, infill growth in the Castro. It's about time housing replace empty, unused lots and, particularly, old gas stations. Our city is well known for its welcoming, open, and free spirit. Let's fulfill our reputation by opening doors to new residents.

However, the building boom is hardly so, and currently looks more like a "planning boom." We hope the neighborhood is able to get beyond concepts and actually see something built. If even one of these developments comes to fruition, it will be a minor boon to the Castro. But imagine real change. Well-designed mixed-use development with affordable housing and public transit nearby will only mean a healthier city for all of us.

Maureen Futtner and Kate White

San Francisco

Archdiocese wants no gay money

The San Francisco Archdiocese does not want any gay couples to be able to adopt children, though it has not reviewed or investigated such couples and their children to see how successful or happy the adoptions have been. The archbishop has not met the parents or the children to see how family life is going and does not seem to understood that many of these children are kids that would have ended up in foster care or orphanages of some type.

The archbishop obviously feels those types of homes are better than a loving family environment.

Let's all admit that the perfect environment is having both a great mom and dad and the picket fence. Unfortunately in the cases of these children, the choice is not there for them to have. Many of these children were not wanted by those who gave birth to them or their parents were not able to take care of them.

I'm sure since Archbishop Niederauer doesn't want gay people adopting children, then one can only assume he also doesn't want money collected in our Catholic churches from any gay people. Imagine, gay money in the coffers.

I suggest to all good gay Catholics that they not drop any money in the basket for the next 60 days but instead place a note saying that they are holding off for now as it's apparent that the church probably doesn't want gay money.


George L. Ramas

Walnut Creek, California

Behind Academy's votes

In a recent letter to the editor [Mailstrom, March 16] , Mr. Robert Biller responded to the B.A.R. 's editorial ["Hollywood's homophobia," March 9] in which he disputed the editorial's claim that Brokeback Mountain lost the best picture category because of the Academy's homophobia. Perhaps Mr. Biller was not aware of some the information that has been reported in the weeks following the actual voting. In an article that appeared on Reuters (March 8), Hollywood reporter Martin A. Grove stated the following: "What some insiders are saying privately is that many Academy members felt so threatened by Brokeback 's gay cowboy romance they couldn't bring themselves to view it even on DVD. There also may have been fewer votes to count if reports are true that as many as 20 percent of Academy voters didn't send in their ballots. Beyond the film's sensitive subject matter, its also possible that Oscar voters rebelled at the prospect of looking like the last group to jump on the Brokeback bandwagon. In applauding Crash over Brokeback , Academy members were saying, in effect, that you can't take their votes for granted."

In addition, in the March 17 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine, Dave Karger, reported in his article, "The Big Night" this added tidbit: "Indeed, asked at Hollywood's old-guard "Night of 100 Stars" party what he thought of Brokeback Mountain, Ernest Borgnine responded, "I didn't see it and I don't care to see it. I know they say it's a good picture but I don't care to see it. If John Wayne were alive, he'd be rolling over in his grave."

Here is a thought: maybe those of us who felt betrayed by the Academy could send the Academy a good old Coors-type message next year about what it feels like being taken for granted. This year the Academy's ratings were down 8 percent to 10 percent from last year and overall the second lowest since Nielsen starting counting in 1974. Hello, who do they think is still willing to put up with the four hours of endless, sugar-coated thank yous and self-gratification. Come next year, I'll be watching a truly entertaining, merit-based and genuine awards program. It's called the Independent Spirit Awards. They actually celebrate the true meaning of independent film and along with the British Academy Awards, the Producers Guild of America, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes) and the Broadcast Film Critics Association, to name only a few, were not afraid to award their highest honor to a film that was not viewed as a "safe" pick.

G.S. Lance

San Francisco