November 20, 2002

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Replacing the Apollo

The Apollo Theater site has been a gigantic vacant eyesore in the neighborhood for approximately 15 years ["Chasing Chinchilla," 11/6/02]. Even during the recent economic boom times enjoyed by the city, the site could not attract tenants. The ownership group consists of young small-business entrepreneurs who purchased this property with great hopes of revitalizing this depressed section of the Geneva corridor. We attended all the neighborhood association meetings, met with the local merchants and residents, opened up dialogue, and took suggestions. After months of collaboration with the community, we have incorporated everyone's concerns to propose a well-balanced project that the majority of the neighborhood supports. The project has merits and is consistent with the General Plan. The existing structure will be preserved, and there will be no displacement of any existing tenants. Potentially 50 years' worth of much needed unionized jobs will be created by Walgreens for the community. Much needed housing will be added to the rental housing stock. Furthermore, the project will generate tax revenue for the city during its budget deficit crisis. We have the support and endorsement of all the major neighborhood associations.

For your information, we went door to door and obtained over 2,000 signatures in support from the immediate area.

The majority of the small-business merchants support our project. We have over 50 merchants that have signed our petition in support of Walgreens. They believe that having Walgreens as an anchor tenant will draw more shoppers into this area and increase foot traffic, thus benefiting all the small merchants along Geneva Avenue.

As a good neighborly gesture, we encourage everyone in the community to continue shopping at Daniel's Pharmacy and for whatever you can't find there, then go into Walgreens.

As for parking, there is always plenty of parking around the corners along Paris, London, and Amazon Streets. The project is also consistent with the city's transit-first policy that promotes the use of public transportation.

The other Walgreens mentioned is seven to eight long blocks away in the Excelsior District, almost a mile away. There is no Walgreens in the Crocker Amazon District or along Geneva Avenue.

Unfortunately on Oct. 10, 2002, San Francisco planning director Gerald Green approved a bizarre L-shape layout that is not viable for Walgreens or any other tenant. Although it is approved with conditions, essentially it is really a disapproval in disguise. Without an anchor credit tenant, we will not be able to obtain construction financing to build the offices and housing in the upper levels. Therefore, we have no choice but to appeal to the Board of Supervisors, otherwise the site will continue to remain empty and dilapidated.

With regards to Mr. Chinchilla, we only hired him as a consultant to deal with political issues resulting from a Chinatown feud that could jeopardize our project from getting a fair hearing. In addition, Mr. Chinchilla stated that he was excusing himself from our cause because he had bid on the property against us.

Lawrence Lee

Developer

San Francisco

Jobs not jails

Reaching adulthood on the streets of Oakland is becoming as difficult to do as it is to articulate Einstein's theory of relativity. There is nothing new about the recent spate of killings that have propelled the kill rate in Oakland back to a triple-digit yearly average. To borrow a quote made by Malcolm Shabazz following a widely publicized act of violence, "What we have here is a case of the chickens coming home to roost."

I find tremendous humor in recalling how the three-strikes advocates were patting themselves on the back a short while ago and giving the passage of the unimaginative, draconian proposition undue credit for reducing the crime rate, instead of giving credence to a record-breaking expansion of the U.S. domestic economy that was being felt throughout the state. Today, as the state continues to dump tax dollars into the abysmal cesspool of ignorance (California Department of Corrections) while the economy sputters and slumps, Oakland reaps the harvest of its latest cop of parolees that have been negligently dehumanized on the shelves of the state's human warehouses, a.k.a. correctional facilities and prisons.

What Oakland needs is not 100 new police officers but some innovative programs to creatively assist residing and returning offenders with a hand up and a chance to become productive citizens of the community. Nothing helps develop such productivity like a dignified occupation at a livable wage. It is painfully obvious that focus cannot be solely put on saving future generations of youth from the harsh reality of the streets of Oakland. It is necessary to salvage those banished from and returned to the same streets. Jobs not jails will cut the murder rate for Oakland and prevent the necessity of reading headlines in the Oakland Tribune heralding: "Young Man Shot Dead: Cause of Death Old Age!"

Latif Shahid

Hayward

For the record

An ad published last week for the Nov. 14 Dead Kennedys performance included a picture of former bandmember Jello Biafra that might have implied Biafra would be performing at the event. He is no longer affiliated with the band and will not be at the show. We apologize for any confusion.