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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Breaking News: Minimum Wage Ordinance to be Rolled Back


Tonight the Emeryville City Council voted 3-2 to roll back the City's landmark minimum wage ordinance as had been proposed earlier in the month in response to a blitzkrieg from restaurant owners in town.  In a drive led by Council members Dianne Martinez and John Bauters and joined by Scott Donahue, the Council voted to stop the July 1st scheduled wage increase for Emeryville's lowest paid workers.  After negotiation with Councilman Donahue who held out for a small increase in wages, the ordinance is proposed to be changed to increase wages at a much slower rate than what is written in the existing law.  Council members Bauters and Martinez had wanted no increase at all and only agreed to the small change after Mr Donahue voted NO with the Mayor and Vice Mayor.

Mr Bauters expressed his concern that restaurants would go out of business en masse in Emeryville if the lowest paid workers get the full increase as it exists after hearing from the business owners.  In response to arguments from labor advocates, he reminded the crowd that Emeryville has done enough to help low paid workers and the July 1st increase of $1.30 is unwarranted.
Mayor Ally Medina stated the Minimum Wage Ordinance as it is reflects the values of Emeryville and that she had been elected specifically to support the ordinance as voiced by many voters when she was elected to the Council in 2016.  She and Vice Mayor Christian Patz voted NO to the roll back proposal.

The vote was the so called 'First Reading' of the ordinance change and the Council will vote again at their next meeting in the required second reading before the law is changed.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

E'Ville Eye Editor Says Emeryville Has Criminally Attacked Free Press

E'Ville Eye Tantrum:
News Blog Editor Calls $2000 Gift From the City Too Little, "An Attack on a Free Press"

Rob Arias Resigns From City's Bike Committee 
in Protest

Calls City Council "Criminal", "Unethical"

The Emeryville City Council recently approved a gift of $2000 from the City’s Community Grant Program for this year to the Emeryville Historical Society, an amount that business advocate, local news blogger and Society member Rob Arias says is less than what they had asked for and further, that amount is so little that it constitutes a criminal act of biased retaliation against him he said.  Mr Arias, the editor of the conservative Emeryville centric pro-business blog The E’Ville Eye said in a sharply worded letter to the Council the paltry $2000 subsidy of taxpayer funds granted to his Historical Society group, is so miserly, that it is “biased” and amounts to a “criminal retaliation against a free press”, referring to the fact that he is editor of that news blog.
Editor and Former
Bike Committee Member
Rob Arias

Says the City's $2000 grant is a
"criminal attack on a free press".
He quit his Bike Committee
position in protest. 
An anguished Mr Arias, who in addition to being a Historical Society member, renders services to the group and stands to materially benefit from the City’s largess, told the Council in the rambling and pointed May 6th letter that Emeryville is no longer “worthy of his efforts” and that he is quitting his position “effective immediately” as a member of the Pedestrian/Bike Committee in protest.  The Historical Society had requested a community grant of $7150 for this year.

The Society reported to the Council at the April 16th meeting that they wish to digitize their private collection of some 1000 photos and any subsidy from the City to the group would primarily be used for that endeavor.  The Society, which has no public access address but holds its archive of photos in the home of a founding member who lives in Oakland, said the pictures, once digitized, would be available for viewing online. The group maintained their right to keep the photos as their private property.  The online public presumably would need permission to reproduce the images and pay a fee to do so.  Mayor Ally Medina concurred, telling the audience, “The community doesn’t own these photos once they’re digitized.”  The online photos available for single use viewing would likely have a standard overlay stamp claiming ownership rights.
Regardless of the Oakland address of the photo collection, the Society listed the Emeryville home address of Rob Arias as their place of business for purposes of their grant application.

The City Council, who yearly grants money to groups they believe do valuable work in the interests of the community, gave a total of $73,500 this year to 11 groups such as Head Over Heels gymnasium, Friends of the Golden Gate Library and California Poets in the Schools.  Most, but not all of the groups on the list received the amount they asked for in their respective grant applications.

Reviewing the Historical Society’s request for $7,150, the City Council took issue with the amount of money the group said it would cost to digitize 1000 photos.  Mayor Medina said she checked industry standard pricing for digitizing and reported that the amount cited in their grant application as too high, “Far, far over anything I could find online” she said.

Perhaps the most surprising allegation in the Arias letter is the charge he leveled at the Council as being “out of step with the desires of the community.”  Long time Tattler readers will recognize the irony in that statement.  We have long chronicled the history of Mr Arias’s political editorializing in Emeryville and have noted that in every ballot initiative, measure plebiscite and race for elected office that has come before Emeryville voters over the years, Rob has always backed the losing side.  Not once has he endorsed the winner, making his claim to know the desires of the people of Emeryville a stretch.

City Hall’s lack of full funding to the Emeryville Historical Society’s request has brought out some overwrought if baffling charges in Mr Arias’s missive. Citing the $2000 endowment as a slap in the face, he’s making it out as a City Council crusade against the community and him personally, a “vindictive” attack on “working families” in Emeryville he says.  His letter calls out Council members Christian Patz and Dianne Martinez as “unethical”, projecting their vote to give his group less money then he asked for as “petty and vindictive”.  He added that he believes Mayor Medina is complicit in the Council's scheme to inadequately fund the Historical Society, equating her silence on the issue as an act of “cowardice”.

$2000 is not enough!

Below is the full text of the Rob Arias resignation letter:

May 6th, 2019
Marcy Greenhut - City of Emeryville Environmental Programs Technician
and Committee Secretary
1333 Park Avenue Emeryville, CA 94608

City of Emeryville Staff and Council,
Please accept this letter as notice that I will be resigning from the
Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee effective immediately.
I've enjoyed my time on the BPAC and have developed camaraderie with
many of its members. While I fell short of my personal goals of
improving pedestrian access in my own neighborhood including obtaining
sidewalks on the strip of Hubbard b/t Park & 40th and improving
thoroughfare on Halleck, I felt I made a meaningful contribution to
the city's efforts to be more bike/ped friendly. I'm especially
satisfied with the walking tours I contributed to including the
sponsorship of the 2018 post-ride happy hour at Rudy's where I spent
$250 of my own money.
I'm a 15 year resident with a long track record of advocacy for the
residents and small businesses within our city. I've served on panels,
graduated from EPD's Citizens' Academy and serve on the nonprofit
board of our city-run daycare ECDC. I'm the neighborhood captain for
the annual National Night Out event and created Emeryville's only news
website The E'ville Eye that keeps citizens informed on important
issues. Recently, I turned my efforts toward the preservation of our
city's unique history through my involvement with The Emeryville
Historical Society. I've devoted my personal time to helping modernize
their platform, fundraising and achieving nonprofit status.
Unfortunately, what I witnessed at the April 16th City Council meeting
contradicts everything I hold dear about this city and is out of step
with the desires of our community. For the second straight year, the
Historical Society was recommended for a community grant by a
subcommittee. For the second straight year, the grant was subjected to
unparalleled scrutiny and denied the grant as requested. This is more
than a coincidence. This is bias. This is retaliation against a free
press. This is criminal.
Councilmembers Patz and Martinez' pettiness, lack of ethics and
vindictiveness toward working families and members of our senior
community is deplorable. Mayor Medina's silence is cowardice and
complicity. Any body that ignores the bias that was exhibited and
blatant to everyone in the room that day should be ashamed.
There are many great causes worthy of my personal time and dedication.
If this is the behavior I should expect from those that purport to be
leaders in our community, then this city is not worthy of my efforts.

-Robert Arias

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Breaking News: City Council Considers Minimum Wage Ordinance Roll Back

Business Owners Convince City Council to "Hit Pause" on Minimum Wage Ordinance

BREAKING- (City Hall)
In a major turn around of long standing City policy, tonight the City of Emeryville is considering a roll back of its landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance.  After hearing from individual Emeryville business owners following an agendized presentation of the Minimum Wage Ordinance, the Council suddenly moved to consider overturning central provisions of its hugely consequential ordinance, set to increase workers wages on July 1st.  Expressing urgency, the Council directed the City Manager to make a vote possible before that date.
The roll back action was initiated by Mayor Ally Medina and enthusiastically taken up by Council member John Bauters who called upon his desire to “hit pause” on the ordinance.

Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance was enacted in 2015 after consideration of business community concerns and testimony from the minimum wage workers in town.  Tonight however, after hearing only from the business community, the Council proclaimed that the provisions for wage increases be stopped before the July 1st wage scheduled increase, a job the City Manager said would be very difficult owing to a lack of time. 
There was very little back and forth among the Council members tonight about the ramifications of this drastic proposal; the majority of their time was spent finagling around Brown Act directives to make sure any vote taken to overturn the ordinance would be legal.

Council member Christian Patz took issue with the cavalier manner in which his colleagues jumped into amending the long standing ordinance.  The other Council members expressed no such reservations.  A special meeting will be announced soon by City Hall so that the State required two ‘readings’ of a change to the ordinance can come in under the July 1st wire.

The Tattler will report in more detail on this fast moving story in the days to come.  Watch this space…

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Emeryville Releases New Minimum Wage Study

Most Businesses Have Accepted the Minimum Wage Ordinance

Restaurant Sector is Still Angry 

Wages Up Regionally as Neighboring 
Cities Follow Emeryville's Lead

The City of Emeryville this week released a revised and recommissioned academic study for its minimum wage ordinance, the results showing a business community that has largely come to terms with the 2105 ordinance, excepting a defiant restaurant cohort who’s animosity towards the ordinance has grown since the release of the first business study in 2016.  The current data rich study, called the City of Emeryville Business Conditions Report and commissioned by the City, is comprised of a comprehensive city-wide business survey with an analytical academic investigation.  It was conducted by the Lorry Lokey School of Business and Public Policy at Mills College, the authors of the first Minimum Wage Ordinance (MWO) study.  This most recent study was completed last summer.

Unlike the first MWO study with it’s look exclusively into the effects on Emeryville’s businesses, the current iteration is more expansive.  Findings have been based on a survey focused on “…how City of Emeryville Labor Ordinances (i.e., Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Leave, and Fair Workweek) have impacted revenues, prices, and employment patterns among local businesses” according to the study’s executive summary.

The survey part of the Business Conditions Report included only Emeryville business owners or managers, workers were not surveyed. The survey, sent out to 319 private Emeryville businesses across the spectrum of business types netted 101 respondents.
All Business Owners' Sentiments About the MWO
as a Percentage

More are neutral and positive about it than against it

but more are against it than in 2016.

Most business owners in all cohorts responded that ‘business is worse’ at a rate of 33% over those who found business to be better (14%) since the MWO was enacted.  However most also found that their productivity had increased 22% versus 19% stating a decline.  Morale has been found to have improved dramatically because of the MWO at Emeryville’s businesses with 33% reporting an increase over 18% stating a decline.  Another factor that has improved for businesses the survey reports, is the number of job applicants for business owners to select from; a 27% increase.  This improvement comes against a generally improving employment rate in the Bay Area that is credited with driving down the number of job applicants in the aggregate at businesses outside Emeryville.
Emeryville businesses have been shown to have increased their prices in response to the challenges brought by the MWO’s implementation by wide margins, especially in the food service sector.

Emeryville's Retail Business Likes The MWO
The green pie slices represent those businesses that
like the MWO.  The red and yellow are those who don't. 
Business owners’ reaction to the ordinance is evenly split the study found, independent of their bottom lines.  After the Minimum Wage Ordinance wage increases hit $15 per hour for small businesses in 2018 ($15.69 for large businesses), business owners collectively responded favorably, seeing it as good or fair at a rate of 21% for those businesses affected by it with an additional 7% expressing favorability for those businesses not affected by the MWO. These numbers were offset by a rate of negativity about the MWO at 24% with an additional 4% of business owners responding negatively whom are not affected by the wage increase.

Food Service Sector Unhappy
Those most unhappy with the MWO, by far, have been shown to be restaurant owners/managers.  An entire section of the study is devoted to them.  Their overwhelmingly negative responses dragged down the overall rate of satisfaction for all business types citywide.  When viewed separately, restaurant owners were found to be dissatisfied with the MWO’s latest wage hike in 2018 at a rate of 67%, owners stating the wage increase negatively impacts their businesses. The category of taxes and regulation, which includes the MWO, are very unpopular with restaurant owners; 41% responding that is their biggest problem in Emeryville, closely following parking availability, 42% of whom found that to be their biggest problem running a business here.

For businesses not in food service, the study shows business owners as mostly favorable to Emeryville’s MWO.  The retail sector generally showed an acceptance of or even support of the MWO.  Overall, about 22% of the retail managers have negative feelings about the Minimum Wage Ordinance, while 47% report support for the ordinance.

Neighbor Cities Raise Theirs
The passage of Emeryville’s landmark Minimum Wage Ordinance caught many municipal neighbors by surprise and many have rushed in to effectively meet Emeryville’s challenge.  Beginning in 2019, the cities of Berkeley and El Cerrito have matched Emeryville’s small business $15 per hour rate while other neighbors have also raised their minimum wages in response to Emeryville’s lead.  This reaction, predicted by the Tattler in 2015, represents a new effective progressive regional minimum wage reflecting the shared values in the Bay Area and serves as a moral counter to previous calls for a ‘regional minimum wage’  at a much lower rate en masse by the business community.
Emeryville's minimum wage, formerly the highest in the nation, has recently been eclipsed by SeaTac Washington.  However, Emeryville's rate increase scheduled for July 1st could put it back on top by a few cents.

Emeryville's Minimum Wage Ordinance Elevates the Regional Wage
A 'regional minimum wage' can be poverty rates region-wide if no city
makes a move to raise theirs
region-wide livable rates if one city moves to raise theirs.

The City of Emeryville Business Conditions Report can be seen HERE.
The first MWO Business Study from 2016 may be seen HERE.
Actual Response From a Restaurant Owner to a Survey Question
The redaction provided by the City of Emeryville
...but you get the picture.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Bauters' Media Blitz Pauses Disruptive Caltrans Project

Backroom Project:
Caltrans Tries to Pull a Fast One

Councilman Bauters Drops the Accountability Hammer

Major Highway Bridge Replacements Would Bring Major Headaches for Emeryville

Caltrans, seeking to take a wreaking ball to replace several bridges in the 'maze' intersection of elevated Interstate Highways on Emeryville's southern border and thereby causing major traffic disruptions on local streets, has run into a wreaking ball to its proposal it didn't intend on; namely the ire of Emeryville City Councilman John Bauters.  The formerly fast tracked project, now on hold largely due to Mr Bauters' whirlwind of activity publicly exposing the proposed traffic diversions, would involve diverting traffic for several months at the intersection of Interstate Highways 80, 580 and 880, one of the most crowded highway intersections in the United States.

After working on the proposal for two years behind closed doors at Caltrans, the transportation agency suddenly announced in March it would proceed with its plan to raze several bridges in order to raise them; adding several feet of clearance to accommodate bigger trucks Caltans says.  The public was given only the legal minimum time to respond, raising the Councilman's hackles.  After he discovered Caltrans has claimed its proposal would have "no impact" on Emeryville and that they had not even bothered to first run their proposal by Emeryville City Hall (or Oakland), the Councilman has taken action publicly exposing the public agency.
Mr Bauters has appeared in no less than four media forums alerting the public about the proposal and the lack of accountability at Caltans.  At his insistence and after a large public outcry as a result of his media campaign, Caltrans has paused the project and agreed to rescind their 'Negative Declaration' planning document that makes the fatuous claim of no impact to Emeryville, a claim Mr Bauters calls "a joke".

Even though the documents associated with the Caltrans proposal don't admit it, Emeryville will likely experience major disruptions over a period of up to two years.  Mr Bauters' blog describes the following problems we can expect: "Traffic snarling on local streets, lower air quality resulting from the displacement of large diesel-polluting semi-trucks into sensitive areas (Emery Unified Schools, our Senior Center and Child Care Center, etc.), noise from nighttime construction and the rerouting of trucks overnight, impacts to our local businesses and economy, the accelerated degradation of local streets, and safety impacts for bicyclists and pedestrians".

A 'Negative Declaration', sometimes called a 'Neg Dec', is a cursory and lower level state required document, much desired by applicants, that precludes a more onerous and expensive Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  Neg Decs can only be approved if a series of questions can be responded to negatively as to the likely environmental impact of a project.   Critics have noted the great financial incentive to lie or exaggerate on a Neg Dec to avoid an EIR.  The Caltrans claim getting Mr Bauters in a huff is unusual because it is a public agency making a non-credible negative claim as opposed to such claims made routinely by private developers.
Here in Emeryville, a notorious example of such a phony environmental claim was made in the late 1980's, before the advent of John Bauters when the developer of the then proposed Powell Street Plaza mall (the Trader Joe's mall) submitted a Neg Dec with a section on archaeological resources.  The developer audaciously answered NO to the question: 'Would this project likely disrupt possible archaeological remains at the site?'  Conspicuously, the site is located directly on the largest Native American midden and burial shellmound on the West Coast.  The same shellmound footprint caused major disruptions years later at the Bay Street Mall located just across the street when the developer of that site dug up a trove of human bones and Native American tools and votives, remains from what was a major center of human activity going back at least 10,000 years.  The developer of the Bay Street Mall was required to produce an EIR and as a result, an archaeologist was on site during the excavations for that project enabling recovery of the objects and reinterment of the human remains.  Because of the less rigorous Negative Declaration of the Powell Street Plaza, no archaeologist was required, leaving the excavation contractor free from any such nuisance prying eyes.

Councilman Bauters' KQED story,  a San Francisco Chronicle article as well as radio interviews are part of the media blitz our Council member has enjoined to bring accountability to this Caltans project.  Readers may get more detailed information on the Councilman's blog.

UPDATE- The Bay City Beacon also covered this story.  Read it HERE.

Alameda County Transportation Commission Meeting
Emeryville City Councilmember John Bauters calls the Caltrans proposal "a joke".
The accountability hammer drops at 26:26.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

City Council Moves to Stifle Public Debate on Uncomfortable Noise Ordinance Subject

City Council Asks, What Would Mitch McConnell Do?

New Tactic Seized Upon:
Disallow Public Debate

Uncomfortable Topics Will Now Go Straight to Vote
No More Presentation of Issues or Debate
Noise Ordinance Waiver Rubber Stamped, Not  Debated

Opinion / News Analysis
Faced with a large crowd and an uncomfortable vote on a developer's Noise Ordinance waiver request they'd rather keep quiet, the Emeryville City Council last Tuesday night employed a new tactic in their ongoing effort to assist developers seeking favors from City Hall.   After reading aloud a waiver request agenda item number (11.1), followed by an empty call for public comment, the Council moved straight to a vote; no staff presentation, no chance for the public to hear about the issues involved, no debate.  It's a tactic that Washington DC's most effective Senate Majority leader in years, Mitch McConnell, would approve of and one, whom Tuesday's spectacle invoked.   
When it comes to developer's requests for waivers to our Noise Ordinance, since 2010, the City Council has shown remarkable consistency for approvals, denying only four out of 19 requests up until last year.  The Tattler has long chronicled the pro-developer bias that exists at City Hall when it comes to these waiver requests, and the April 16th approval is just the latest in a long line, regardless of a new self proclaimed livability-friendly Council.

Charting new territory, on Tuesday, the new Council agreed that since they had already heard a presentation about the specific noise waiver request in question at a previous meeting,  they could dispense with another presentation and any public debate.  This reasoning, erroring on the side of opacity in City government, negated the room full of people at the meeting, most of whom had not been at the previous meeting and whom had an interest in hearing about the request and being given a chance to weigh in.

These are academic and picayune concerns for a City Council, wont to speed up government processes to help those who matter the most in Emeryville.  Avoiding civic and personal embarrassment was likely on their minds as well.  These tactics, the same as those taken up by the great turtle man in Washington notably also serve the same demographic.  It would appear like minds think alike. 
We're looking forward to much more efficient City Council meetings and the chance to get home at a reasonable time, all that uncomfortable public debate having been found by our City Council to be unnecessary.  The business sector helped, the public shut out, government streamlined....Mitch couldn't have done it better.

 The fun begins at 12:09

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Parks Presentation Propaganda

Staff, Council Deception on Parks

Public Policy Failure is Cast as a Success

Opinion/News Analysis
Emeryville City Hall recently hosted a meeting on the state of our city parks now and in the future, after which the citizen attendees and TV viewers came away happy, assured the City Council is working to provide all the planned new parks in town as they’re supposed to.  Some may have gone into the meeting thinking there aren’t enough parks here but not to worry the attendees were told, the City Council is on it.  The parks box is checked and everything's A-OK they learned.  The citizens left the meeting happy…. happy but ignorant.
Were the actual facts about parks in Emeryville revealed, the departing citizens wouldn’t be happy.  They’d be angry.  Because there is a major problem with parks here.  We’re not getting them.  And that’s a problem not even admitted to by City Hall.  What we ARE getting instead is agitprop and evangelism by our government.  The meeting, on March 19th, is revelatory; it was set up to deceive and mollify the people.

The City Council took pains to cajole the citizens into thinking they’re doing fine with the goals the City has with providing parks.  They highlighted the two or so acres of parks they built over the last ten years and referenced their plan to build another three or four acres of parks that have been funded over the next several years.  But what was brazenly left unacknowledged was the 800 pound gorilla in the room: Emeryville is midway through the 20 year General Plan and to satisfy it, the City needs to build not three or four acres but 26 additional acres of parks in the next ten years.  Got that?  Twenty six acres in the remaining ten years after having built only two acres over the first ten years.

After joking about pressure coming from the Tattler on the issue, Mayor Ally Medina opened the discussion, adding some realism for better effect into the otherwise pure whitewash.   She began by interjecting a little mea culpa contrition into the presentation, “We could do a little bit better of a job addressing, as we increase our density,  some of this livability and park space for our ever increasing residential population.” she said.   And then the propaganda whitewash began.

'We're doing great on parks in Emeryville!'
says the City Council
The General Plan, weighing in at 800 pounds,
says something different, but is ignored.
The General Plan is as clear as it is ignored: at least 26 acres of new park land needs to be built in Emeryville over the next ten years.  But the March 19th meeting revealed City Hall has no intention to deliver on that.  The abdication of its duty to the General Plan in general and parks specifically thus represents a public policy failure. The staff obviously put in many hours for the presentation that purposely left out the information the people need to know about the City’s failure providing parks.  We want to know how much paid staff time was spent preparing this hood thrown over our eyes.

As friends of Bill twelve steppers and other drug rehabbers are fond of saying, ‘the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging there IS a problem.  And how it goes for addicts is true too for municipalities seeking to solve their problems.  Cities need to admit they have a problem before they can move to fix the problem.
The Emeryville City Council, going around telling the citizens they’re doing great with building the parks they’re supposed to provide, is reprehensible and irresponsible.  The truth is that they’re asleep at the wheel, using the staff do do their dirty work and Emeryville residents are being cheated out of the parks we’re supposed to be getting.

The meeting in all it's shameless glory, may be viewed here:

Sunday, March 31, 2019

How Do We Know When We've Built Enough Housing?

Councilwoman Martinez Says Emeryville Hasn't Built Enough Housing.

ABAG Says She's Wrong.

Who's Correct?

Answer: ABAG

News Analysis
Just about everyone knows at this point, that the Bay Area is in need of more housing.  Developers and Wall Street concerns are united in agreement on this of course but so is the media and even academia's city planning cognoscenti.  But what about Emeryville specifically?  Does Emeryville need more housing?  Emeryville has built a lot of apartment buildings over the years - more than our municipal neighbors have.  Has it been enough?  How do we know when we've built enough housing?
Emeryville is a dues paying member
of this, the premier housing authority
for the Bay Area, it's true.
So why does City Hall
downplay its findings?
City Councilwoman Dianne Martinez says she knows; Emeryville hasn't built enough she says.  Ms Martinez is unequivocal on the subject, "We really need more housing" she said at a recent City Hall study session without qualifying that sentiment.
That statement isn't quantifiable because it isn't true.  Ms Martinez posited an opinion as though it were factual.  In fact, we know Emeryville does not need more housing.  We know this because the premier housing authority in the Bay Area, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), of which Emeryville is a dues paying member, tells us Emeryville has been over-building housing since 1999.  For the last 20 years, Emeryville has built more than its share of housing, more than what ABAG has recommended.
Emeryville, as it turns out, is not part of the Bay Area housing crisis.  At least not as far as market rate housing is concerned.

We've Built More Than Our Share
Even as developers seeking to make a quick buck in our town and certain Emeryville City Council members with an ideological point of view argue that Emeryville must build more housing, ABAG's findings are as definitive as they are vexing for these two groups.  The State of California has charged ABAG with compiling a cogent and rational housing plan for the Bay Area, assigning each city with a list of housing goals through a data base known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA; pronounced Reena).  RHNA compiles the numbers based on equalizing several factors including matching the jobs a geographic region has or is anticipated to get to available housing.  Each city is then assigned a number of homes it needs to provide sub-grouped into affordability categories.  Emeryville, unlike many neighboring cities, has consistently over-built housing in the 'Market Rate' or 'Above Moderate' category.  Sometimes by a huge amount.

For instance in the critical years 1999 through 2006, Emeryville built total housing at 234% of RHNA recommendations with a whopping 525% of recommended market rate housing.  And every year since 2006, we've continued to build more market rate housing than RHNA recommends, averaging 105%.

Interestingly and to the developer's advantage, ABAG divides each RHNA implementation period into seven year time horizons and overages from previous periods don't have an effect on the new period's housing needs assessment.  So Emeryville's massive overbuilding during the early 2000's doesn't drive down the amount of housing we're now tasked with providing; we still must continue to provide housing as if we were starting from zero.   However, even without counting all the surplus market rate housing stock Emeryville built up over the previous implementation periods, the most recently completed period that ended in 2014 shows we've overbuilt market rate housing at 105% of RHNA recommendations.
Council member Dianne Martinez
"We really need more housing"
she says, but she refuses to tell
us where she gets that information.

The current RHNA implementation period, 2015-2022 shows Emeryville market rate housing at 60% of RHNA recommendations over a period of 57% of elapsed time, meaning we are building housing at almost exactly the rate recommended up until now.  However, the 60% figure doesn't count the 500 homes that will be built at the Sherwin Williams Project, slated for approval later this year.  With that project added to this implementation period, the 2015-2022  period will show Emeryville again well over 100% of recommended market rate housing.

City Hall Fudges Numbers
The ABAG/RHNA numbers reveal a city stepping up to the housing plate and then some.  Indeed,  Emeryville has bragging rights when it comes to doing its share of housing in the Bay Area.  Yet, for all the over-building of market rate housing over the last 20 years, Emeryville is not taking any bows.  Quite the opposite actually.  The City has sought to actively downplay its housing record, suggesting more needs to be built.  Planning Director Charlie Bryant even denied there has been an overage of market rate housing at all at a recent publicly held Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) meeting on the incipient 638 rental unit Onni Project slated for Christie Avenue.  Ms Martinez steadfastly refused to tell citizens where she came up with her idea that Emeryville needs more housing, citing a City Attorney ruling that Council members not discuss the Onni Project with anyone either publicly or privately except the developer himself.

The City is preparing for and greasing the skids for an onslaught of major apartment towers it anticipates in the coming years.  The February 5th City Hall Study Session where Councilwoman Martinez revealed her opinion that we "really need more housing" is instructive; the Council is considering rolling back family housing regulations and our 'tower separation' regulations in order to accommodate much more market rate housing.  Not satisfied with merely downplaying the RHNA numbers, City Hall so strongly believes in building more market rate housing that it is pushing to drop these regulations enacted in 2015 (after a year of public deliberations), all at the request of the developer of the Onni Project.

Public policy is not based on politics or hearsay or rumor or assuaging the whims of any developer.  Even billion dollar developers.  Councilwoman Martinez's fatuous comments notwithstanding, we know how much housing Emeryville needs.  There is only one repository for factual information about housing specific to Emeryville and that is ABAG and the RHNA.  It is hardwired into the City's General Plan and is used to determine how much housing to build in our town regardless of what a misguided City Councilmember, the City Staff and a developer seems to think.

Councilwoman Martinez says Emeryville hasn't built enough housing.  How does she know?
Video Guide-  Start at 1:18:32
Ms Martinez on the Onni Tower Project: "Building housing is imperative..."  "I'm loath to delay it..." "I don't want to see more study sessions...we need to move the ball forward"
"Onni will create a lot of housing at a time when we really need it [in Emeryville]"

From City of Emeryville ABAG's RHNA 199-2006 numbers: Emeryville over-built market rate housing at a rate 525% of recommendations.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Letter to the Tattler: Eugene Tssui

Eugene Tssui: 
Christie Avenue's Onni Tower 
"...A Lethal Environmental Catastrophe Waiting to Happen"

I am writing in response to the proposed 54 story building known as the Onni Tower, and the 
16 story ancillary building, to be located on Christie Avenue, next to the current Wells
 Fargo bank building and FedEx/Kinkos building.

The Onni Tower
At nearly 700 feet tall, the Onni Project will add
some 1,100 new renters to Emeryville and an
undetermined number of daily car trips.
I have calculated the carbon monoxide levels that the two proposed
 buildings for Emeryville will produce:  The buildings have a total
 square footage of 258,000 square feet as described by the real estate
 developer's stated specifications.  Multiply this figure by 20 to
calculate the number of BTU's required to heat, cool, and ventilate
 these buildings.  The figure is:  5,160,000 BTU/hour that the 
buildings produce.  To convert this to kilowatts per hour, multiply
 each BTU by .000293071.   The result is:  1511.88 KWH/Hour to 
heat/cool/ventilate these buildings.  One KWH = 1.13 Pounds of CO2
(Carbon Dioxide).  Multiply 1511.88 KWH/H x 1.13 Pounds = 1708.4244
 pounds of CO2 per hour that these two proposed buildings will inject into Emeryville's air.  Every 24 hours the amount of CO2 will be 
41,002.185 pounds or 20.50 tons of CO2.  To check my calculations, I have also used an alternative method produced by the Carbonfund organization, and get a result of 17.6 tons of CO2 per day created by this building.

Carbon monoxide (CO2) deprives cells in the body and brain of oxygen
 by combining with the oxygen carrying hemoglobin of the blood to form 
carboxyhemoglobin.  This reaction prevents oxygen from binding to 
hemoglobin, thus leading to anoxia (lack of oxygen).

  How might it affect the environment?   Carbon monoxide reacts with 
other pollutants in the air to form potentially harmful ground level
 ozone.  This occurs close to the site of emission.

  Inhalation of carbon monoxide at high concentrations can be fatal 
because it prevents the transport of oxygen (in blood) around the
 body. Releases from poorly maintained appliances and interior heating,
 cooling and ventilation systems, in poorly ventilated spaces could 
result in concentrations high enough to cause death.  Long-term
exposure to lower concentrations (such as through smoking) could harm 
unborn babies or cause neurological damage.

'Sick Building Syndrome' is
 a term sometimes used for interior air pollution maladies but this building proposes to expel 17.6 to 20.5 tons of CO2 into the air on its exterior, and thus is a lethal environmental catastrophe waiting to happen.  It will dump a
 minimum of 17.5 to 20.5 tons of toxic CO2 into Emeryville's air per day.

  Is this what you want for Emeryville and for your own health, your
 family's health and the health of your local neighborhood 

  This proposed building design, and its day-to-day function will be
 a disaster.  Our planet earth is dying and a major reason 
for its accelerating death is the continued creation of architectural 
buildings, such as this one, which will add to the lethal CO2 content of 
our air, water and soil.  We do not see this insidious attack on our air because it is up high, on the roof, where we cannot view it.  Every day, we have the choice to mitigate 
and resolve our urgent dilemma of a dying earth or contribute to its 
on-going destruction.

 I have not even touched upon the energy and 
materials resources that this building will require and the lethal 
pollution that will result from the fabrication and erection of its materials.  
The drinking water wasted, the toxic oil and gas, and the polluting 
electricity needed to create the materials of construction of this
 proposed building and its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning
 systems will further devastate what healthy resources, fresh air,
 drinkable water and non-polluted soil we have left in our
 Emeryville neighborhood.

Emeryville, and the world, does not need another lethal architectural
 behemoth that silently contributes to the killing of our planet.  

Please consider carefully, and with informed study, the consequences 
of the existence of such an ecological and architectural disaster.   Buildings, such as this one, are killing us and robbing our planet of what healthy future we have left.


Dr. Eugene Tssui,
Architect, Author, International Professor

Eugene Tssui resides primarily in Emeryville since 1989 and has raised a family of five here.  He is an internationally practicing architect, maintaining offices here and in Shenzhen, China, specializing in "true zero-footprint" and disaster-proof buildings. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1989, and holds an Interdisciplinary Doctorate in architecture and education, and two Masters Degrees in architecture and city and regional planning.  Dr. Tssui is the author of seven books on architecture and ecology and has been a professor of architecture and ecology at UC Berkeley and Beijing University in China.  He was a Harvard University Research Scholar in 2011 and 2012.  His articles on architecture and ecology have been published globally in over 100 magazines and newspapers ranging from Nature magazine to the New York Times.

Recently, he has been involved in designing the tallest building in the world, in development for Shanghai, China, using the natural ambient temperature of the Earth as a passive heating, cooling, and ventilation source and thus having no ecologically destructive HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning) systems.  Dr. Tssui has been featured on global television programs such as National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel, the History Channel. PBS CNN, NBC, CBS, The McNeil/Lehrer Report, the BBC, MTV and CCTV television in China, and Nippon TV in Japan, and has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and the Graham Foundation.  Dr. Tssui was recently bestowed the title "Guardian Angel of the Planet" with Jane Goodall and Jean Michael Cousteau, by Multivu News, New York. 

Monday, March 11, 2019

RULE Meeting

From RULE:
Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

➤Important public meeting this Saturday March 16 at 10-noon on the Onni Tower project

The resident advocacy group RULE invites all interested to attend our meeting Saturday, March 16 in the community room of Doyle Street Co-housing in Emeryville, 5514 Doyle Street. 
Both Council Member Dianne Martinez and Planning Director Charlie Bryant will be in attendance. We will be discussing the proposed Onni Tower at Christie Avenue and Powell Street in Emeryville. The luxury residential (and office/retail) project will be 54 stories (+ parking, close to 700 feet in total building height) and contain 638 units for more than 1,000 residents.  It is comprised primarily of market rate studios and one-bedrooms.  The developer has included the required minimum 17 percent affordable housing, but is below the number of two- and three bedroom units required by city ordinance.  Twelve of the 55 three-bedrooms will be located on the tower's penthouse and "sub penthouse" floors. There will also be a half acre park fronting on Christie Avenue.

For more information, go to:

Council Member Martinez said she will be available to hear residents concerns and feedback, and Planning Director Bryant will answer specific questions about the proposed plans.  Mr. Bryant has requested a list of questions beforehand, so please email with your Qs by end of day Tuesday, March 12 and she will send a summarized list to Mr. Bryant.

The goal is to allow everyone an opportunity to speak at the meeting, from 10 am to 12 pm Saturday, March 16.