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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Perka for City Council, no smear with her

The smear mailer meant to malign Kathie Perka does not allow me to remain silent. One of the hits listed in the smear mailer says Kathie Perka voted against the bilingual Montessori preschool (child care center). The following summarizes my dealings with Sandi Potter on this specific child care center, and gives credibility to Kathie Perka’s voting decision.

I attended the recent El Cerrito Democratic Club meeting for ‘meet the candidates night.’ At the meeting Potter said the child care center on Schmidt Lane was struggling because of requirements added to the use permit. I asked Potter for clarification. In her e-mail response Potter said the City Council added a restriction of 3.5 hours maximum of outdoor play per day and this a main reason for low enrollment. Potter got this wrong.

Here is the truth. The applicant for the child care center use permit (Planning Commission meeting 4/5/00) stated her program would require no more than 3 hours of outdoor play each day. Potter participated in this meeting. After formal appeal and four months later the City Council actually increased the time for outdoor play to 3.5 hours. The time for outdoor play, however, was specifically defined giving consideration to concerned neighbors.

Here is the truth. Shortly after the ECDC meeting I spoke directly with the child care center operator. She said the primary reason for low enrollment was due to the close proximity of PG&E Substation G. Many parents felt uneasy about being so close to high-power electrical equipment and went elsewhere.

Why do I know so much about the background on the use permit for this day care center? I am the neighbor who appealed the Planning Commission granting of the use permit. The primary reason for the appeal was the expected noise generated during outdoor play. Church activities on weekends gave all the neighbors a preview of what we could expect as unpleasant noise 7 days of the week. One hundred percent of the affected neighbors (total of 12) signed a petition in non-support of the child care center. Because of the appeal the matter moved forward to the City Council.

Now go back in time to the Planning Commission meeting of 4/5/00. At the meeting the neighbors presented their objections to the location of the child care center. There was not one neighbor who supported the location of the child care center. Later in the meeting Potter said ‘…if not here, where …’ when referring to the proposed site. There were a number of issues ignored by Potter and the rest of the Planning Commission. These are the significant oversights.

1. All public notices and postings said the activities ‘to be located within the church building’. You had to go to the PC meeting to find out there would be outdoor activities, and conversion of a parking lot to a play area was included. Start of the cover-up.
2. Large family day care centers in El Cerrito cannot be located within 300’ of each other. The proposed site is within 300’ of the Sycamore center operation. This guideline was ignored.
3. The proposed site directly affects twice the number of homes as compared to any other child care center in El Cerrito. Significant negative impact on the neighborhood was ignored.

The meeting ended with the Planning Commission granting the applicant everything she asked for in the use permit. All objections and concerns raised by the neighbors were dismissed.

Bottom line, Potter claims she supports child care centers, but has not demonstrated any concern for the impact of her agenda on neighborhoods. The site should have never been proposed for locating a child care center.

The City Council, in its actions, added requirements to the use permit to help reduce the expected noise problem. This included moving existing outdoor play equipment, adding fencing and landscape hedging. The use permit was granted (8/2000) by the City Council on a 3 to 2 vote.

Kathie Perka voted against granting the use permit primarily because of poor site selection and the negative impact on the neighborhood, and not because she opposes child care centers.

I will cast only one vote for El Cerrito City Council, and that will be for Kathie Perka.

Hal Schultz

Run dates: 2002-11-01 - 2002-11-05

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