Trees & dogs at Parks and Rec Advisory Commission

Since last night’s Planning Commission Design Review Committee meeting on the new Pleasant Valley Safeway got canceled, I decided to use my suddenly free evening to sit it on the Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission meeting about the planned dog play area at Lakeview Park that I wrote about the other day.

Oakland’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission

This was only the second time I had ever been to a Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission (PRAC) meeting. The first time was about two years ago. I had gotten this idea in my head that I would like to join a City Board or Commission, so for a month or two, I kind of went shopping around, sitting in on random Board meetings trying to see if any of them would be a good fit for me.

The PRAC had been the first Commission I thought I’d enjoy serving on. I didn’t have any particular reason, I guess. I just really like parks. When the weather is nice, I ride the bus all over town on weekends so I can go hang out in all different ones.

I had downloaded the agenda and read all the reports before the meeting, and decided that everything they were being asked to approve sounded just fine to me. There was an approval for improvements to Cesar Chavez park (PDF) (which, BTW, just received a $2.25 million grant (PDF) from Prop 84) and some permits for collecting registration fees (PDF) for charity walks around Lake Merritt. Oh, and a mural at Defremery pool (PDF).

The only people besides me in the audience were the applicants for each of the items. I figured this must be pretty standard for the PRAC, since they seemed confused as all hell by my presence. At one point the Chair just straight up asked me what I was doing there. I was like “I’m here to watch!” and they looked totally befuddled.

Anyway. The Commissioners had all sorts of questions that had never even crossed my mind about all the items on the agenda. When the charity fundraising walk around Lake Merritt came up, there was this whole discussion about how the walk organizers needed to get their registrations online, because the Commission is very concerned about minimizing the exchange of money in the parks.

After that, I decided that just because I like hanging out in parks didn’t mean I was particularly well suited to make decisions about them, and that the PRAC probably wasn’t for me. And since their meetings are at a kind of inconvenient time and location for me, I never ended up going back. Until last night, of course.

Tree removal permit appeal for St. Albert’s Priory

So I actually ended up getting to the Garden Center kind of late, and I figured that they’d be well into the dog park discussion by the time I arrived. Nope. They were still discussing the first item, a tree removal application (PDF) for St. Albert’s Priory in Rockridge.

I know I’ve been saying this a lot recently, but it really is always so funny to me what ends up being interesting at these meetings. I had seen that there was something about tree removal on the agenda before the dog park, but it seemed so uninteresting that I didn’t even bother reading the report.

Anyway. So I waltzed in right in the middle of the discussion, without having read anything about it, which left me to figure it all out as they were talking. If there was much in the way of public comment, it happened before I got there.

In July, the priory applied to the City for a permit to remove ten trees from their property — eight sweet gums, a silver maple, and an oak. Many of the priory’s neighbors objected to the idea of removing the trees, because they’re pretty. (It’s true. Sweet gums are really pretty.) Tree Services received 22 e-mails opposing the tree removal application, and ultimately denied the priory’s application to remove the sweet gums, citing community opposition as the reason. They OKed the removal of the maple and the oak, which were sick.

The priory then decided to appeal the denial of their application, citing “ongoing concern that trees represent personal and property threat to neighbors’ safety” as their reason. The appeal came to the PRAC in October (PDF), but the Commission postponed the item (PDF).

The reason the priory wants to remove the sweet gums is because they can’t afford to maintain them. I am not an arborist or anything, but when I got to the meeting, someone who sounded fairly expert about trees was going on this long explanation about the root systems and how the trees are so close together and how sweet gums are particularly susceptible to limbs breaking off and falling, and how there is a way to decrease that risk, but it involves lots of very expensive pruning, and since you’re pruning the limbs so much, by making them safer, you reduce the aesthetic value of the trees. Here’s how the report (PDF) explains it:

St. Albert’s is concerned with limb failure from the sweet gums. Limbs up to eight inches in diameter have fallen from the trees. Limb failures can be a threat to both Saint Albert’s and the single-family home at 6140 Chabot Road that is adjacent to this row of sweet gums.

I was never able to figure out how this dude was. He kind of seemed like he was from the City, but then what he was saying sounded like an argument in favor of letting them remove the trees. Plus, there was someone else there against the tree removal who was definitely from the City. I asked my friend who I went to the meeting with if he had any idea who they were, but he didn’t have any more of a clue than I did.

So like I said, I don’t really know much about trees. Or at least I don’t know about root systems and different species susceptability to limb breakage. I do know, from experience, all about how obscenely expensive it can get to take care of big old trees and also about how dangerous falling limbs are. So you can imagine my surprise when one of the Commissioners comes right back after that long explanation and goes “Just because a tree is gonna drop a branch is not going to make me vote to remove it.”

That seemed like a pretty cavalier response to me, but like I said, I came in late, so I didn’t have all the details. One of the Commissioners suggested that in the future, staff provide the Commission with photographs of the trees in question, so they would be better positioned to make a decision. That seemed like kind of a no-brainer to me.

So as I’m sitting there thinking that maybe if these neighbors are so attached to the trees, maybe they should step up and help pay for all this expensive pruning. Then someone from the priory explained that some neighbors had offered to help pay for the tree maintenance, but in exchange for their contributions, they wanted to be able to use the priory’s lawn for picnics and entertainment, but that they weren’t willing to open up their property for just anyone to use, which sounded pretty reasonable to me.

In the end, the Commission decided to allow the removal of half of the eight trees in question, which would apparently be better for the root system or something, and make the Priory leave the other trees in place. It seemed like an okay compromise, I guess. But mostly it just made me wish I had gotten there earlier, because I found the whole discussion quite interesting. If any readers have been following this issue, I would love to hear more about it in the comments!

Lakeview Park Dog Play Area

Finally it was time for the dog park.

So last night’s meeting was a very different experience than the last time I attended the PRAC. This time, the room was completely overflowing with people. Seriously. They were spilling out into the hallway.

Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee Meeting

After pointing out that if everyone who had filled out a speaker card spoke for even one minute, the meeting would last all night, the Commission just asked everyone who supported the dog play area to just raise their hands and only speak if they had something specifically related to the design to say. Pretty much every hand in the room went up.

Three people spoke in opposition to the dog park, and I stopped counting at some point, but somewhere around a dozen or so spoke in favor. Those opposing the dog play area focused mostly on two issues — their concern over the drastic reduction of scarce open space near the Lake and the idea that having dogs so close to a children’s play area would be dangerous. One concluded his comments by informing dog owners that by choosing to live in a city and own a dog, they are signing up for inconvenience. Another wanted to know whether the planned hence could be replaced with some kind of hedge.

Okay. So I really do not get all this paranoia about a dog park. There is no lack of open space near Lake Merritt. What there is a lack of is a place for people to take their dogs to play. You don’t have to like dogs, but no matter what your opinion of them, people need to accept that having dogs is a very normal thing, even in cities.

37% of US households own dogs. It is not some weird thing that only people who live on farms in the country do. I was born in Denver (a bigger city than Oakland, BTW). We lived right in the heart of the city. We had a dog. My sister lives in Denver now, also in the heart of the city. Guess what? She has a dog. A huge one. Denver is extremely accommodating of it. Before I lived in Oakland, I lived in Portland. Also a bigger city than Oakland. Also very dog friendly. And lots of people in Oakland have dogs too. Because that is a normal part of life for a large portion of the population.

It’s true that not everyone will ever use a dog play area. It is also true that not everyone will ever go use some field for a soccer or volleyball game. It is also true that not everyone will ever have a child to take to a tot lot. But when we talk about how we are going to use our open space, we have to make accommodations for the needs of all different sorts of people. And the lack of places to take one’s dog in this part of Oakland is a legitimate quality of life issue for a lot of people, and it is long past time for it to be remedied.

In response to those concerned about the dog play area’s proximity to the tot lot, advocates noted that Hardy Dog Park is also adjacent to a children’s play area, and that there have not been any problems there. They even had a handy illustration.

Hardy Park

The Commission had some questions about the fence for the park, which will be four feet tall, black vinyl chain link, with vines planted along every second post. There was a handout illustrating the fencing concept as well.

Lakeview Park Dog Play Area fencing concept

In response to concerns about the dog play area infringing on the space used in the park now for soccer games and such, supporters of the park explained that this particular design had been changed from one previously approved to leave a better space for non-dog recreation in the remaining park area.

They also had a colorful illustration of the plan.

Lakeview Park Dog Play Area plans

After a brief discussion, the Commission approved the design for the dog play area. Then next step for the project will be to file an application for the project’s approval. It will likely come before the City Council in the Spring.

I’m sure I’ll write about this again at that point, but if you want to keep up with all the news about the park, and learn how you can help make it a reality, join the ODOGs mailing list.

51 thoughts on “Trees & dogs at Parks and Rec Advisory Commission

  1. ralph

    Two observations:
    One, people who love trees don’t exactly understand the upkeep involved. Root systems can be problematic and branches need pruning. Good compromise – based on the facts presented I did not see the need to get rid of all the trees.

    Two, glad the dog park was approved. I did not understand the fuss. Yesterday, as I walked back from Lakeshore, I stopped to survey the land and thought how cool will it be for parents to come down with the kids and the family pet. One parent can watch the kids on the playset and the other could exercise the dog.

  2. len raphael

    in a better oakland there wb a lot more children than dogs and cats. but it ain’t gonna happen so lets toss some bones to the dog owners.

    well exercised dogs are much less likely to go nuts on people and cats. (no citation for this statement)

  3. Daniel Schulman

    It certainly makes sense for a staff report on tree removal to have photos of the trees being considered. Nothing, though, beats a site visit. Sometimes I’ve seen boards take longer to discuss how something looks than it would have taken to go to the site.

    Heck, because it’s on next week’s LPAB agenda, I think I just might visit the Trappist this weekend.

  4. Naomi Schiff

    Dog walkers function as additional “eyes on the street” and can make people who walk around at night feel safer. As long as folks are responsible about their animals’ behavior, use a leash, and are willing to clean up any unattractive emissions, I think they are helping build community. Because dog owners meet each other around their urban neighborhoods, they can help tie it together a little.

  5. len raphael

    LG, simple explanation: a lot of trails and streets have no public trash containers. On trails, some dog owners assume that there are volunteers or park employees who pick up trash and would rather pick up gross sealed plastic bags than grosser dog pies.

    V, probably different in the hills, but in the flats, DIWK’s (double income w kids) don’t seem prone to having dogs and kids at same time. Too much work, houses and yards too small.

    Doctor appts for kids are bad enough, without vet bills and visits.

    -len raphael, temescal

  6. Jim Ratliff

    Quite surprisingly to me, the Cleveland Heights neighborhood Yahoo group (Haddon Hill, China Hill, between Lakeshore Ave. & Park Blvd. below 580) erupted with posts, pro and con (though mostly con) on the dog-park issue. In the 7 years I’ve been a member of the group, there’s never been an issue that produced even half the traffic this one did.

    As often happens with City projects, the extensive outreach to the public during the planning phase was several years ago. Now, when the project edges closer to implementation, people start to pay attention and feel like they haven’t been consulted.

  7. ralph

    Dan,
    If you are going to the Trappist this weekend, then go Sat aftn I think there is some type of toy drive.

  8. Dave C.

    Jim,

    You’re right—our 15X Yahoo group has really gone to the dogs in the past few days. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

    By the way, my hunch is that most of the commentary has been “con” because a lot of “pro” people like me have been mostly sitting by the sidelines and waiting for the kerfuffle to subside. I have absolutely no problem with people expressing their objections to the proposal and discussing alternatives on the Yahoo group, but the fact remains that this proposal has already moved pretty far along in the planning process, so I don’t personally feel any great desire to engage in a point-by-point argument about its merits on the neighborhood listserv.

  9. 94610BizMan

    I’m against the dog park on maintainance expense grounds. With City employee cost and an inefficiency I don’t see how the total cost of operation won’t be far higher than what is listed as the initial build out cost. Therefore it is just another unfunded expense.

    BTW Len I believe the correct antonym is “Dink”, Double Income No Kids. Lots of dog owners in this group.

  10. annoyed

    I don’t see why we have to spend money on a dog park when the entitled in this town walk around with their dogs off leash already wherever they choose.

    Peralta Hacienda is going to close down due to lack of funds but we have money for a frickin’ dog park?

    Frankly, I’m just a bit disgusted over how people dote and drool over their animals.

  11. len raphael

    annoyed, just look as this as a dry run for the coming budget armageddon when library supporters will be pitted against parks/rec advocates against cyclists injured by potholes, etc. we’ll need to hire private guards at city council meeting to keep order, in violation of the charter.

    can’t imagine how Detroit residents will react in the 40% of that city that is slated to get ex communicated by its city govt.

    I can see the advantages of cutting off your legs to save your torso and legs. Politically those areas must have 0 voter clout.

  12. Naomi Schiff

    It would be a lot easier to convince people to keep their animals out of the parks if there were a place where they could go to let them off leash. Plus, I note that there is a requirement for the dog group to raise money, right? Think of it as a way to contain the unleashed dogs in a secure place.

  13. Max Allstadt

    Hey, I have an idea, why don’t we have a normal city where leashed dogs are permitted in most if not all parks, and unleashed dogs are permitted in dog runs, and specific areas in some parks, such as playgrounds, do not allow dogs?

    Why don’t we do that because that’s the way it’s done in every city I’ve ever heard of except for our stupid city?

  14. ralph

    If you depend on city funding and subsidize OUSD students, then you suffer the financial consequences. I think people who run non-profits need to realize money does not grow on trees, you need to diversify your revenue stream and recoup at least some of the cost of providing services via fees and not just to gen pop.

    In a vibrant city, you have people with animals. People with animals are happy, they socialize, they foster community. Net net dog park is a good idea, probably my one concern as noted above by I believe bizman is the ongoing maintenance.

  15. We Fight Blight

    Trees provide important aesthetic, environmental and enconomic benefits to communities. The City of Oakland has a series of reasonably strong, though disjointed, tree protection ordinances that could be rewritten for greater clarity. While the City holds private property owners to the letter of the ordinances, it plays loose and fast with the requirements that it must follow. Brooke Levin, the Deputy Director for Public Works, routinely disregards the requirements the City must follow in terms of public noticing, assessment of hazardous trees, removal of protected trees, CEQA clearance and compliance with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is a dual standard and a matter of expediency by someone with questionable judgement. Brooke Levin does not understand the legal requirements she is bound to follow and appears not to care. Trees are emotional no doubt. But it doesn’t help that we have bureaucrats like Levin who are supposed to be the stewards of an important public resource yet simply don’t get it. This is even more exasperating knowing that Brooke Levin is drawing an exorbitant salary well in excess of $100,000. Perhaps with a new Adminstration we will see significant changes in Oakland’s highly dysfunctional Tree Program.

  16. annalee allen

    naomi, I totally agree with your comment re: “eyes on the street” dog walkers. I so miss walks with our dog, now that she’s gone. All those times walking the neighborhood – early mornings, and evenings before bedtime, and yes, we frequently would see other like minded folks doing the same thing. btw “we fight blight,” you need to move on to another topic. Isn’t there something and/or someone else you can complain about?

  17. We Fight Blight

    Annalee. There are certainly plenty of things to “complain” about regarding blight in Oakland. All too often the media and/or the public’s attention span is far too short. Issues significant to the City get covered once or twice and glossed over, the public easily forgets and nothing ever changes in Oakland. Our persistence regarding street trees is intended to ensure that Oakland’s bureaucrats are actually held accountable for their actions and ensure they actually follow the laws they are bound to uphold. We are sorry that you are bored with the issue and feel we need to move on and “complain” about something else. Perhaps you can tell those neighborhoods and residents who have suffered from the indiscriminate chainsaws of Public Works to “move on to another topic”.

  18. annalee allen

    WFB – it seems to me that for some time you have chosen to focus on one certain individual whom you don’t mind listing by name (what’s your name by the way?). I’ve known this individual for some time and I can’t think of another city staffer who works harder for the city. This goes back to the hard, hard days after the Hills Fire. Were you living here then by any chance, WFB? Talk about keeping things in perspective! The loss of life, the loss of homes, the loss of property, and yes, the loss of countless beautiful trees – a disaster up there with any you can name in the history of California and the US. The individual you are complaining about worked tirelessly as a then mayor (Elihu Harris) staffer to assist the many, many hundreds of people affected by that disaster who lost everything.
    Like I said, let’s keep things in perspective, and yes, let’s not “easily Forget.”

  19. Max Allstadt

    I, for my part am curious if WFB is a siamese twin, or royalty, or if he’s so beside himself with rage about blight that he’s literally beside himself, and it looks like there are two of him.

    The whole “we” thing is just plain weird. Why do you use the plural, WFB?

    On a completely unrelated note, I read your entire Nik-Nak appeal yesterday. No sarcasm here: really good, airtight, comprehensive work, a model for us all to follow.

  20. len raphael

    AA, there are many hard working, well intentioned city employees, including managers, just as there are in any organization. How effective say the manager of Public Works as a manager of a very large department is a different question.

    Oakland needs more hard ass, SOB managers who will get bonuses based on increasing output quantity and quality while decreasing input costs if we’re going to make it thru the next decade and thrive.

  21. We Fight Blight

    Annalee,

    We appreciate that you personally know Brooke Levin and hold her in high esteem because of her work on the Oakland Hills Firestorm in 1991. However, today is December 2010 and Ms. Levin is now the Deputy Public Works Director responsible for a myriad of City functions, including the Tree Services Program. As we have reported, the Tree Program is significantly mismanaged and in disarray. Public officials, such as Brooke Levin, who are highly compensated with our tax dollars, should never be exempt from public scrutiny. We are sorry that our focus on your friend is troubling to you. However, we believe greater scrutiny and accountability of public officials at the City of Oakland can change and improve City services to the public. For far too long, the citizens of Oakland have accepted poor services, lack of transparency and not enough accountability from a cadre of overpaid bureaucrats. We simply are not getting our money’s worth. Perhaps if Ms. Levin actually cleaned up the problems in the Tree Services Program, followed local, state and federal laws regarding the removal of trees, and the City was more transparent in how it operates such programs we would stop writing about it. The choice is Ms. Levin’s and that’s our perspective.

  22. annoyed

    Really, it’s not dogs I don’t like as much as dog owners who think it’s just lovely when their mutt shoves its nose up your butt, sniffs around your feet, jumps up on you, etc. Yuck. And they never apologize, the dog owners, they beam and prattle about how harmless it is.

    And a dog park is not going to make one darn bit of difference on the number of dogs off leash. Because the entitled are just so entitled.

    If we are going to spend money on something, how about spending money on the Craters Formerly Known As Pot Holes that are all over the city?

  23. len raphael

    Max, five years from now, you will either sound like a cross between charley pine and WFB (without the royal we), or like AA.

    I guarantee it.

    That seems to be the fate of concerned oakland residents who are not brought into the system with a city position or a contract.

    -len raphael, temescal

  24. V Smoothe

    Len -

    That’s ridiculous. I know plenty of longtime local activists who are completely sane. The extreme bitterness and unrelenting anger exhibited by those you name is far from the norm.

    Annoyed -

    There is no additional cost to the City for maintaining a dog park. It costs less money to have a dog park that others take care of than it does to have a regular park that City staff has to maintain.

    We Fight Blight -

    My blog is not an appropriate venue for your bizarre, personal obsession with Brooke Levin.

  25. Naomi Schiff

    I don’t really understand that last comment, but maybe it doesn’t matter. What I do notice is that posting on blogs seems to bring out the irascible, intolerant, impatient and ill-mannered in some people who in person are perfectly pleasant. I do wonder about it sometimes.

  26. Naomi Schiff

    Whoops, I should have said: Len’s last comment! Thank you, V, you are correct on all points.

    And: There is a beautiful sunset right now.

  27. We Fight Blight

    V. Your blog, your rules.

    But can you help us out here and tell us what in our posts makes for a “bizarre, personal obsession with Brooke Levin?” Also, can you give us an example of the “extreme bitterness and unrelenting anger” that you reference. Really? Can you connect the dots for us? Because we see it as persistence in daylighting problems with the City. But hey, we just live in a little bubble called North Oakland/South Berkeley.

    Max/Len

    The Royal “We” is because there is more than one person who writes, edits, provides photos and story ideas, and maintains the WFB blog. We guess it could be called I Fight Blight if “We” were only one person. Or You Fight Blight if you were fighting blight, or They Fight Blight if someone else was fighting blight or Some People Fight Blight or perhaps Oaklanders Love Blight.

    But in all honesty, “We” actually plagiarized the idea for the name We Fight Blight from the catchy Oakland slogan used during the Elihu Harris Administration, “We Mean Clean”.

  28. V Smoothe Post author

    We Fight Blight –

    If your goal is to shine light on problems with the way the City is operating, then my advice, if you want people to pay attention to you, is to avoid personal attacks, keep your criticisms to actual facts, and strive for a measured tone. Your many enraged sounding posts yelling about Brooke Levin’s salary make you sound unhinged. Continuing to use this tactic will cause readers to dismiss whatever legitimate gripes you might have.

  29. Max Allstadt

    Len,

    I was actually aiming to end up sounding like David Mix. Incidentally, anybody ever notice that it’s only men that go all nutty and angrypants in their gadfly demeanor?

    WFB,

    It looks a lot more like you’re mixing and matching the majestic plural and the “editorial we”. But I’ll spare you further Twainian remarks about pregnancies and tapeworms.

  30. len raphael

    v, I see no reason to doubt WFB or Charlie Pine’s sanity even though i would question how to reach Charlie’s opd staffing goal; or whether WFB is fully aware of the dark side of encouraging our starving city to fight blight aggressively.

    Extreme bitterness? Their frustration seems quite justified, but I don’t see it as bitterness.

    Unrelenting anger, yup, guilty as charged.

    People die disproprotionately from violence, drop out of the crappy school system etc. I think it’s wierd not to get angry about some of those things. I might not agree with some of the ngo’s on their solutions or methods, but they don’t have a monopoly on justifiable anger.

    If more residents got angry at the way this place is run, it would be a far better city.

    The other extreme seems to be the calm, activists who have accepted the reality of what Max might describe as not “a normal city”. Working within the constraints here, praising managers and employee who aren’t cynical and uncaring regardless of effectiveness.

    -len raphael, temescal

  31. Max Allstadt

    I’m not going to question WFB’s sanity. Just the viability of his tactics.

    To effectively fight blight, I would think that it would make sense to not create an openly hostile relationship with the Deputy Director of Public Works.

    If the Deputy Director is a problem, (and I don’t know that she is, nor am I suggesting that she is) wouldn’t the wise strategies be to

    A: work around her.
    B: try to have her removed or reassigned by working through back channels.
    C: find alternative means of improving her performance.

    Open warfare is rarely effective. I’ve gone down that road often enough to have learned this lesson well. I’m still nowhere near repairing the mess that I built for myself with Nancy Nadel in the ’08 election by being naively uncivil about the way I chose to oppose her candidacy. And she’s still there.

    So yeah. Not crazy, Len. Just ineffective. Especially considering WFB’s very diedicated focus on issues directly under Ms. Levin’s purview.

  32. We Fight Blight

    Thanks V.

    However, we respectfully disagree with you regarding personal attacks. Noting a bureaucrats high level of compensation in relationship to their inability to manage a program is not a personal attack. In our opinion it is questioning whether our tax dollars are getting us reasonable value. Identifying where a public servant is lacking in managerial capabilities and showing where their programs are failing is not a personal attack. In our opinion it is highlighting poor program performance and advocating for accountability.

    While you may think we sound “unhinged” because we have noted several times that Brooke Levin is making $165,000 plus benefits, we think it is important for the public to understand the compensation levels of those whom we believe are underperforming City staff, particularly during times of severe financial crisis and the forced layoffs of police.

    Personal attacks? We would ask you whether any of our posts regarding the Tree Services Program characterize Ms. Levin in such strong language as “bizarre, personal obsession”, “extreme bitterness and unrelenting anger” and “unhinged”.

    What we have said about Brooke Levin is that she does not appear to understand the three ordinances govering trees, could not answer basic questions regarding ownership of the trees in question, did not understand the requirements of the Public Records Act, and that the Tree Services Program for which she is responsible is mismanaged and in disarray. We have not attacked Ms. Levin personally, we have questioned her performance and that of the Tree Services Program.

    Anyone can read any of our blog postings on this subject and can decide on their own if our posts are unfair, personal attacks or legitimate concerns.

    Out of deference to your request, we will not post any more comments on your blog regarding Brooke Levin.

  33. len raphael

    Regardless of which tactics one chooses personally to influence the direction of the bureaucracies and politicians, there’s a hard cop soft cop synergy going on also.

  34. ralph

    “While you may think we sound “unhinged” because we have noted several times that Brooke Levin is making $165,000 plus benefits, we think it is important for the public to understand the compensation levels of those whom we believe are underperforming City staff, particularly during times of severe financial crisis and the forced layoffs of police.”

    Observation, I can only assume if Ms. Levin were making $30K you would not be so outraged. My attention span wanes when people bring up a person’s salary. All I want to know is the person performing the job they were hired to do. It takes my ears and eyes, as the case may be, less than half a second to turnaway when the issue of salary is brought into the discussion.

  35. Max Allstadt

    That’s true, Len. But being the Bad Cop on a handful of blogs and directing that energy at a mid-level bureaucrat seems futile.

    Bad Cop works on the Allen-Michaan-Goes-Nuts scale. At the scale that WFB is using it, I think it’s very easy to dismiss.

    Similarly, if you do it all the time, like David Mix and Sanjiv Handa, it becomes too easy to dismiss for it to be effective.

    Not that any of these guys are dishonest or play acting: I think they’re quite honest about their dissatisfaction. But the net benefit that Sanjiv, for instance, brings to city hall, is not a product of his outrage. In his case, his omnipresence is part of the benefit, and his ability direct others towards sources of information is also a huge benefit.

    Similarly, WFB’s obsessive attention to detail in his Nik-Nak appeal was a benefit to me this week, when I cribbed from his work as a template for another appeal.

    @Ralph: Good point.

  36. Naomi Schiff

    You forgot one of Sanjiv’s important community services! He staves off the disarray and testiness caused by low blood sugar, toting in pastries for the benefit of languishing planning commissioners and such.

    Max, I agree that if one only scolds and rails and delivers sarcastic remarks and criticizes without letup, after a while people do quit listening.

  37. Jim

    There is a strange relationship building in this society in regards to money. For some reason higher pay means better work? I know I make less than some of my co-workers. I think I do a better job than many of them and work harder. I worked at a company that was known to offer lower pay. We worked tirelessly and frankly could out perform any other company’s workers that I have ever seen.
    How come? Motivation to do the job. Morale is everything. Don’t get me wrong, pay is important, but you have to want to do the job.
    My advice is that instead of attacking peoples pay, you should be asking the city managers and administrator how come work is not being done correctly or with good speed. Managers that can’t correct issues need to be shown the door. That and a good performance based review system would help this city more than pay check floggings in the newspaper.

  38. len raphael

    Jim, everything I have ever experienced or heard unsolicited by both employees and outsiders is that our city workforce has a pervasive culture of never exceeding the low expectations of the public.

    You can tell the employees who are the exception because they stick out. Next time you go back, you always ask for them, and they remind you how some city employees take public service very seriously.

    No doubt the typical attitude has worsened as they feel exploited by the minor pay cuts, justifiably worried about layoffs and further compensation cuts, and unappreciated hearing comments like mine.

    No magical organizational engineering or reworking of the entire civil service structure is needed, though I’m sure contractual work rules need some changes.

    Just a mayor who knows how to pick and support a competent city administrator. A mayor who wouldn’t be afraid to say what Pat K declared the other week: that she was elected to serve the residents, not the city employees.

    -len raphael, temescal

  39. annoyed

    How much is it going to cost to create a dog park? Zero dollars, too? And I don’t believe for a minute that it won’t cost more to maintain it.

    If you want a dog park, then buy something called a house with a back yard. This ridiculousness that dogs should have “play dates” with each carved out of precious urban parks is revolting.

  40. len raphael

    Annoyed, good thing you don’t live in Emeryville. There was a proposal to build a high rise dog friendly apartment house on Powell St. next to the Bay.

    Didn’t make it thru nimby review because of height.

    But just imagine all those pooches pooping along the Bay.

    -len

  41. CitizenX

    annoyed, next thing you know, people will want a place for kids to play in the parks, too. Dog owners and parents have such nerve. And, don’t get me started on dog-owning parents. Bah humbug.

  42. annoyed

    How funny you would equate kids with dogs. This city is becoming more kid unfriendly every day. Kids in this town have been going to school with no heat and there has been ZERO outrage about it. If there were a bunch of dogs going without something in this town, local blogs and list serves would be on fire. But kids, who cares? Pretty much no one.

  43. Andrew Alden

    I’m very much on We Fight Blight’s side(s) when it comes to pushing for competent tree oversight. A walk down Shafter Street from College to 51st, for example, will show you generation after generation of idiotic tree species, planting practices and poor maintenance that’s created sidewalks of shambles. But WFB, the manager’s salary is irrelevant. I mean, Governor Schwarzenegger works for free and we criticize him. And the manager’s not alone to blame when people like Jane Brunner don’t hold her feet to the fire. It’s not just one person.