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January 23, 1986 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1986-01-23

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4

OPINION

Poge 4

Thursday, January 23, 1986

The Michigan Daily

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te n tna n Michig an
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Directors pave

Vol. XCVI, No. 8o

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
Encouraging news
TWO SEEMINGLY unimportant negotiation. The decision is depen-
diplomatic events took place dent upon the return of Egypt's
last week. The Israeli Knesset ambassador to Tel Aviv. While
voted to submit the Sinai border Egypt has yet to comply, both sides
dispute with Egypt to ar- appeared satisfied with the other's
bitration, and Israel and Spain reaction late last week.
established diplomatic relations At the Hague on Wednesday,
for the first time. These events, Peres and Prime Minister Felipe
while overshadowed in the news Gonzales of Spain established
media by reports on more violent diplomatic ties between the two
happenings-the continuing saga of countries. In signing the
Muammar Quadaffi's hold on the agreement Spain becomes the last
Western World and the Marxist Western European country to put
coup in South Yemen - offer glim- its ambassador in Tel Aviv. In or-
mer of hope for the world's future der to maintain its support for a
both in Israel's internal Palestinian homeland, Spain, like
machinations and her dealings many other countries, including
with other nations. the United States, will place its
On Monday, Prime Minister ambassador in Tel Aviv and not in
Shimon Peres' inner cabinet made the disputed capital of Jerusalem.
the decision on the border dispute Coming on the heels of mutual
over a seven hundred foot strip of recognition between Israel and the
beach called Taba, which connects Ivory Coast last month, the
extreme southern Israel to the Nor- agreement only brings benefits to
them Sinai. This strip, currently both Israel and Spain.
part of Israel, contains a resort In a world dominated by bad!
hotel and beach. It has been a sour- news, it is encouraging to see coun-
ce of dispute between Israel and tries settling disputes peacefully
Egypt for a number of years, each and patching up strained relations.
side claiming the territory based Although the easing of tensions
on British censuses taken in the between Israel and Egypt and
early part of the century. Spain's recognition of Israel are
The Cabinet's decision puts the small events in thenselves, they
dispute to a process of conciliation, provide the world with a dose of
arbitration, and then finally badly needed hope.

By Ken Garber
The building frenzy now taking place in
downtown Ann Arbor is only the beginning.
Ground has been broken for One North
Main, eleven stories of offices and con-
dominiums where Joe's used to be, and
three more high-rises are on the way to
possible approval. Taken together, the
current and planned projects will decisively
change the character of our city. Ann Arbor
will look different, feel different - and
probably cost more - once the current
building boom subsides. Many of us who
have a long-term commitment to the city
feel left out of the whole process; and
because of events surrounding the biggest
project of all, the proposed Huron Plaza
convention center, we've lost all faith in the
ability or willingness of our city planners to
responsibly manage Ann Arbor's growth.
That growth is deceptive. A building
boom means we have a healthy, growing,
vibrant economy here, right? Not
necessarily. This "boom" is largely ar-
tificial; few if any of these projects would
now be under way without the tax changes
of 1981. These drastically shortened the
depreciation period for new buildings, sud-
denly making high-rise projects (which
maximize square feet and minimize expen-
sive land costs) attractive tax shelters for
wealthy investors. Whether there is a
demand for these buildings is almost
besides the point; only a fraction of Ann Ar-
bor's new office space has so far been ren-
ted, and competition for tenants will be in-
tense in the face of the current nationwide
glut of office space.
Ann Arbor has 3 million square feet of of-
fice space now, with a twenty percent
vacancy rate. The new projects add 1.5
million square feet, so when it all comes on
Garber is a member of the Near West
Side Neighborhood Association.

line, the vacancy rate could rise to near for-
ty percent (the national office vacancy rate
is about sixteen percent).
Nor will high-tech save the day. An Ann
Arbor News study last spring showed that
high-tech employment in Washtenaw Coun-
ty actually dropped between 1982 and 1985
(Ann Arbor is not Silicon Valley; it is
primarily a university town with a con-
tinued dependence on the prosperity of
Detroit). The new projects can change the
skyline but they can't alter economic
realities. It looks like there's going to be a
lot of half-empty office buildings around.
Apparently having realized enough is
enough, investors have stopped flooding city
hall with office building proposals and are
now pushing high-rise apartment buildings
and the massive Huron Plaza hotel/conven-
tion center. Costing $45 million, Huron
Plaza will have 400 guest rooms, rise 14
stories and occupy virtually the entire city
block across from the Whiffletree
Restaurant. Experts have raised doubts
about the economic viability of a convention
center here; neighbors are concerned about
the new traffic it will generate in the
residential areas it abuts; and downtown
merchants are worried there will be no
parking spaces left for their customers.
These concerns have either been ignored by
the city Planning Department or brushed
aside with misleading statistical infor-
mation. More alarming, however, is the
eagerness with which city planning direc-
tor Martin Overhiser tried to bend the law to
suit developer Richard Berger.
Overhiser has done all he can to see that
Huron Plaza is approved, even though the
site plan exceeds city building mass limits
by 30 percent. When Berger was denied a
zoning variance in June, Overhiser tried to
change the zoning ordinance that was
holding Berger up. City Council rejected the
change after an uproarious public hearing
on October 14. Overhiser then announced
that Berger's underground parking didn't
count in the floor space calculations as long
as ceilings were less than seven and a half feet

hie way
high. This clumsy manuever was aban-
doned when the city attorney declared it
illegal. Now Overhiser has fashioned a plan
so obscure (featuring a high-rise parking
structure on adjacent city land) that he
must be hoping that City Council will change.-
the original ordinance holding up Berger's
project.
At no point has Berger offered to shrink
his building plans to conform to current city
zoning law. In fact, Berger three times has
submitted site plans with his underground
parking removed in an effort to blackmail
the city into approving the larger version.
So far City Council hasn't backed down; it
will vote again in February.
The Huron Plaza farce is not an isolated'
event. For the last decade, encouraged by'
former mayor Lou Belcher, Overhiser and
his staff have mainly served to smooth the
way for developers here (Belcher himself is
a partner in the Downtown Club office
building and "Belcher's Building" going up
on Liberty and Fifth). With the conversion
of the Downtown Club and Braun Court from.
cheap housing to upper-scale offices and
restaurants, Ann Arbor continues to be
transformed into a place where only the.
elite can afford to live. With few exceptions,
our city planners are more concerned with
nurturing development proposals than with
protecting existing neighborhoods,
especially those with affordable housing.
Bigger is always better when it comes to
tax shelters, but where does that leave most
people? It's hard to see how downtown
congestion, a cluttered skyline, and a bunch
of half-vacnt office buildings are going to
make Ann Arbor a better or more equitable
place to live. The remaining open space
downtown should be developed, in ways
that address our needs and enhance down-
town's atmosphere, not overwhelm it. But
Richard Berger - and apparently our city'
planners - have other ideas. "We haven't
even dented the surface yet," states Berger
in an Ann Arbor News interview, adding
that "this area will eventually rival South-
field or Troy". Is this what we want?

Bering

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Spring in January

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G REY SKIES blend well with
cement sidewalks this
January in Ann Arbor. Semi-sunny
days are warm sweater mild,
easing the transition from holiday
laziness to a busy semester. Slip-
ping from class to class, waiting in
movie lines, and bypassing Barnes
and Noble to support U. Cellar can
be positive experiences when the
temperature is well above
freezing.
It's not the kind of weather for
reading outside or writing letters
in the diag. Hands still need mit-
tens and wind reddened faces are
bordered with loosely tied scarves.
But hatless heads abound, unbowed
and shoes flirt with asphalt in the
absence of snow. Backpacks rest
comfortably on less bulky coats,
layers are lighter and muddy grass

oozes with running shoe imprints
from afternoon football and frisbee
games.
There's a healthy surge of ac-
tivism rising with the temperature.
Reminiscent of spring fervor,
students have organized outdoor
events to commemorate Martin
Luther King Jr.'s birthday and the
thirteenth anniversary of the Roe
v. Wade decision. Student activity
should continue indoors when the
wind starts biting again.
Beware that cold comes to Ann
Arbor without warning. This un-
seasonable warmth has been a
tease, a delightful diversion. Later,
when you awake to a sub-zero
morning remember the sweetness
of spring in January.

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LETTERS:

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Arab leaders don't help Palestinians

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To the Daily:
In the past number of weeks,
we have carefully read the
rhetorical exchanges from mem-
bers of the Ann Arbor community
concerning the issue of Zionism
and racism. It is interesting to
note how these accusations and
/ responses have closely resem-
bled the rhetoric that has flown so
freely in the United Nations over
the last 40 years regarding the
problems in the Middle East
which has failed to bring about
any peaceful solutions in the
region. There have also been

the deterioration of the Middle
East and Palestinian peoples.
From Nasser to Khaddafy who
vowed to bring together all Arabs
in efforts to regain the land of
Palestine for their Palestinian
brothers, to Yasser Arafat who
armed his refugee children with
Khalashnikov rifles and the
romantic hope of destroying
Israel - the continued promise of
a "never-ending Armed
Struggle" has only compounded
the misery of the Palestinians
and Arabs living on Israel's bor-
ders.

whereas Israel donates more
than a number of Arab countries.
Why have these facts been omit-
ted from the debate on the fate of
the Palestinian people?
Today the opportunity of peace
lies at Yasser Arafat's door as
the nations involved are working
desperately to establish some
form of international conference
to solve the Palestinian problem.
But Arafat and other Palestinian
terror groups seem content with
bombings and killings, . and
people continue to die and
Palestinians continue to suffer.

that Arab and Jew can in fact live
in peace. Let someone convince
the PLO and the Arab leaders of
today that their past policies
have and only will lead to war.
Fawaz Turki, a Palestinian
author wrote: "We performed
badly at the test of history. We
can do it again. Or we can face up
to the challenge and transcend its
boundaries." Armed struggle is
the real problem of the
Palestinian people.
- Sandy Hauser,
- J. M. Hansen,

r NOT

~M&MV

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