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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bay Street Mall Thumbs Its Nose At Drought

Drought, schmought...Bay Street ain't feelin' it.  Even during a Stage 4 'critical' drought, the Bay Street Mall likes to use plenty of the wet stuff to keep things spic and span, neat 'n tidy for the shoppers at the popular profit center even though it violates the State's mandatory water restrictions now in effect.   East Bay MUD is clear; businesses may not use water for outdoor vanity cleaning...and yet...every morning, regardless of the drought....
Think about this as our reservoirs keep sinking lower and lower

and lower.

(Photos courtesy of a concerned resident)

A little Mokelumne River here...
Some Sacramento River there...
All done... until tomorrow.

Emeryville Plays Central Role in Regional Minimum Wage Fight

From In These Times:
TUESDAY, MAY 26, 2015, 12:58 PM

LA’s Min. Wage Will Be $15 by 2020. But This Bay Area City’s Minimum Will Be $14.44 By July.

With proposals to raise the federal minimum wage languishing in Congress, cities are increasingly taking matters into their own hands and leapfrogging ahead of the current national rate of $7.25. On May 19, Los Angeles became the largest city in the country to approve a $15 hourly minimum wage—one of several California cities including San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego which have recently passed substantial wage hikes. Seattle, Washington, set the precedent in June 2014, pledging to raise its minimum to $15 over the next two to seven years, depending on the size of the company.
Most of the increases will be implemented gradually over several years. LA’s minimum wage, for example, will reach $15 by 2020. But earlier this month, one small California city decided that its low-wage workers shouldn’t have to wait that long for a living wage. This summer, Emeryville will set a new national precedent when its minimum wage surges to nearly double the federal rate.
“Let’s Give Emeryville and Workers a Raise”
“This is an issue that evokes strong emotions,” said Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin before the start of the public comment session for the city council ordinance that would raise the minimum wage to $14.44 per hour by July 1—making Emeryville’s rate the highest of any city in the nation. (The small Seattle suburb of Seatac also passed a $15 minimum wage, but not all workers in the city are covered under it.)
The mayor—an ardent supporter of the living wage campaign in Emeryville and the national Fight for $15—instructed attendees of the May 5 city council meeting to hold their applause and boos until everyone had talked. As dozens of low-wage workers, union representatives, faith leaders and community members addressed city government officials on the moral, social and economic significance of passing the living wage ordinance, seated supporters signaled their approval with spirit fingers twinkling in the air, Occupy-style, and signs reading “Let’s Give Emeryville and Workers a Raise” rippling back and forth across the room.
If boos had been permitted, it’s unclear they would have been forthcoming. Of the scores of speakers that night, only three issued any reservations about the proposal and not a single person spoke in outright opposition. Just minutes after public comment came to a close, the council approved a “first reading” of the ordinance unanimously, guaranteeing its passage into law. When the vote concluded, audience members began hugging and high-fiving. “You can clap now,” Mayor Atkin told them, and the room erupted in celebration.
The ordinance’s path to victory began in 2014. It first surfaced at a time when the Lift Up Oakland coalition—a network of local nonprofits, unions, elected officials and progressive businesses—was building momentum in the nearby city for a November 2014 ballot initiative, which would raise the city’s minimum wage to $12.25. After the measure passed overwhelmingly, Mayor Atkin quickly assembled a team of supporters to push for similar legislation in her own city.
Most of those involved in hatching the Emeryville ordinance had worked on the Oakland campaign, and some of them, including the mayor, had helped pass Measure C in 2005. This groundbreaking law compelled Emeryville’s four big hotels to increase their workers’ pay, implement job security rules and adhere to workload standards, which are crucial in an industry responsible for a high number of on-the-job injuries.
Despite an extremely expensive campaign waged by the No on Measure C camp, which called itself the “Committee to Keep Tax Dollars in Emeryville,” 54 percent of Emeryville voters endorsed the hotel regulations, which have subsequently served as models for cities like Long Beach and Los Angeles.
With the 2005 victory, Emeryville seemed to make a political pivot. Once known as a corporate haven with a city council largely dominated by business-friendly voices, the city has since become a distinctively progressive city at the national forefront of living-wage activism.
Please click HERE for the rest of the story.

Monday, May 25, 2015

"Crime is Illegal" Meeting Called By Vice Mayor

Vice Mayor Nora Davis recently announced the City of Emeryville's intention to conduct a public meeting to make sure Emeryville residents know that crime is illegal.  The Chief of Police,  Dave Hall confirmed the proposed meeting, adding people need to call the police when crime is witnessed.

Normally, people have grasped the idea by the time they turn 18 years that crime is illegal and that the police should be called in response, however apparently in Emeryville, Councilwoman Davis feels there are many people who never gleaned that and some public education is in order.   City Hall has not revealed how much taxpayer money will be spent on the educational meeting but some amount of paid staff time, at least Mr Hall's, will be allocated to the effort.  

The date and the time of the meeting has not yet been announced, but the Tattler will report on this when it is available.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Emeryville's Worthless General Plan: Overturned on a Whim

Emeryville's Former & Current General Plan:
98 Pound Weaklings They

News Analysis/Opinion
The trials and travails of Emeryville's weak and pathetic General Plan have been well documented by the Tattler over the years, including last week's piece highlighting the destruction of the architectural gem formerly known as the First National Bank Building on San Pablo Avenue.  That iconic piece of Emeryville history in brick and stone was destroyed to make way for the post-modernist architectural pablum that now opprobriously occupies the same site.  The General Plan didn't have the legislative or moral authority to secure what Emeryville residents have declared as sacrosanct; part and parcel of progressing is remembering.  We wish to save some of our older buildings.
Emeryville's General Plan
Not up to the task.
The problem comes when developers seek permission to construct projects that involve tearing down our historic and architectural buildings of merit.  The General Plan expressly forbids that but we've yet to see an instance where the Plan has been strong enough to ward off such an attack.  It's clear to all; our General Plan, so democratically vetted it won an award from Sacramento, is no match for any developer seeking to make a buck in our town.
But what about Emeryville's former general plan?  How did that plan fare against developers also so inclined?

As it turns out, Emeryville's previous general plan was no better than what we've got now.
The previous general plan, encoded some 25 years ago was not nearly as vetted by the citizenry as the current iteration.  The City Council simply paid a city planning firm to write it up and then the public was given a few chances to comment before it became the central guiding document for the City.  However even without the current Plan's democratic bona-fides, the old plan also recognized the value in retaining Emeryville's historic architectural legacy, especially in the Park Avenue core.  Vernacular nineteenth and early twentieth century brick factories and warehouses were identified as a specific protected class of buildings by the plan.  These buildings were to be retained and converted for new uses.  The idea was not only to save Emeryville's architectural legacy but also to keep Emeryville as a place for start up entrepreneurial businesses, owing to the cheaper rent in these existing buildings versus new construction.

Consider the Disney/Pixar campus site.  The Emeryville General Plan was unequivocal; The old nineteenth century brick cannery row Del Monte factory on Park Avenue, its many buildings torn down in 1996 (mistakenly reported 1992 by the SF Chronicle), should have been saved.  But it wasn't that our General Plan lacked the cajones to stand up to wouldn't have, but it wasn't Pixar that demolished this massive site.  It was actually torn down for no reason at all.
At first, Kaiser Permanente wished to tear down the old Emeryville cannery row to build a hospital.  The General Plan needed to be amended to specifically allow hospitals to be built on that parcel and that was quickly done by City Hall to accommodate Kaiser in 1994.  The beautiful Del Monte buildings were to be torn down, the General Plan be damned.  But then suddenly Kaiser pulled out of the deal, presumably returning the buildings to their protected status afforded by the General Plan.  But that was not to be the case.  Instead the Redevelopment Agency took it upon itself to demolish Emeryville's historic legacy on Park Avenue with no proposed construction project even in the pipeline.  The General Plan was overturned so Emeryville could clear 20 acres of land in the center of our town to search for a developer to buy it.  It wasn't until later, 1998 with the site cleared, that Pixar bought the land and finished their first building in late 2000.
In a case of governmental hubris, Emeryville City Hall is now claiming on their official website, the land was cleared before Kaiser backed out of the deal...probably because the truth about a General Plan not even worth the paper it's printed on is embarrassing for City Hall.  

One gets a visceral sense of the people's wisdom reflected in their General Plan by gazing at the before and after pictures below:

Park Avenue (Before) 
Cannery Row: part of the old Del Monte Canning factory.
The General Plan said save this building (and others on the site).
Photo used with permission 
Park Avenue (After)
Same site, same camera angle.  Cannery Row today...
Large street trees and a security fence.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Strange Looking Pack of Dogs on Horton Street

People reported a strange looking pack of dogs on the Sherwin Williams site yesterday.
The Sherwin Williams Site on Horton Street
Residents may want to keep small dogs and children indoors until a more detailed report is available.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

City Council Cleans Up Minimum Wage Ordinance Language, Reauthorizes

Last night the Emeryville City Council placed the conteteous minimum wage law on a new schedule after they cleaned up language in the ordinance that would have prohibited an employer from changing some pre-existing voluntary benefits to their employees.  New language striking that unintended consequence was drafted and the ordinance was given a new first reading, putting the law on a new track with a July 2nd start date.  The previous iteration of the ordinance would have started the new law on July 1st.  The unintended consequence barring employers from changing their own internal employee benefits was brought to the attention of the City Attorney Mike Biddle by an outside legal firm.  The problem might have left the City exposed to litigation Mr Biddle said. The Council vote adapting the change was unanimous.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Minimum Wage: Emeryville Businesses Flee Former Hard Positions

Now Business Seems To Love Our Progressive Minimum Wage Ordinance

News Analysis/Opinion
If you listen to a growing chorus of Emeryville's businesses, the proposed minimum wage hike, set for July 1st, has gone from being a destructive force ready to be loosed on our town to an acceptable, even desirable policy of a responsible government.  It's the latest mood swing in the schizophrenic, some might say infantile shifting narrative expressed by the business community here since the City Council began talking about raising the minimum wage last summer.

Black Bear Diner on Christie Avenue
They led the drive to stop the minimum wage ordinance
in the beginning.  Now they support the wage increase,
"All members of the community will benefit" they say.
With the final 'high noon' second reading of the wage ordinance looming May 19th, the latest turnaround in attitudes has been as remarkable as it has been rapid.  Only two weeks ago small businesses were set to descend on City Hall, pitchforks and torches at the ready with whisperings of recall campaigns directed against some Council members, now they seem to be quietly resigned or more remarkably, publicly extolling the virtues of what will be the highest minimum wage in the nation.
At this point we imagine most business owners in town seeing the minimum wage rise as inevitable, would rather not further damage their public relations in a losing battle by continuing to agitate against increasing the wages of the working poor.

Angry Business Community: Total Collapse
An angry mob that was supposed to fill the Council Chambers at the first reading of the new ordinance on May 5th never materialized.  As witnesses at that meeting heard actual minimum wage workers tell their stories of needless suffering and of the daily indignities they suffer, speaker after speaker, it became clear the business community would not say a peep.  In fact several business supporters showed up, filled out speaker cards but declined to speak.
E'Ville Eye Editor Rob Arias
He used his blog to pitch the
petition for a moratorium on
the minimum wage ordinance
but he failed to present it
to the City Council.
Most surprising was when the Mayor called out for one such speaker, "Rob Arias...Rob Arias.... is Rob Arias still in the building?"   Mr Arias, the editor of the pro-business right wing opinion blog the E'Ville Eye, slinked out of the building moments before his time to speak arrived, taking his minimum wage moratorium petition with him.  Many attendees expressed surprise Mr Arias left without speaking because he has been using his blog as a platform for business discontent over the minimum wage for months.  That blog was the entrance portal to the petition Mr Arias was pitching to try to turn the tide against the City Council majority and their minimum wage vote.  The petition, signed by many businesses, was meant to serve as a cudgel against the Council members intent on raising the wage.  But in the end, the City Council never even received the petition, Mr Arias didn't present it to the Council.
 Tellingly, Mr Arias who had earlier in the year publicly repudiated academic studies as untrustworthy for information about the minimum wage ordinance later reversed himself and demanded a new study be conducted as a pretext for the minimum wage moratorium petition.

While Mr Arias' E'Ville Eye has been busy trying to gin up sentiment against the minimum wage ordinance, businesses are stating to embrace it, even those whom had earlier signed Mr Arias' moratorium petition.  Perhaps the most surprising of the turn-arounds is the Black Bear Diner.  Credited with starting the fight against the minimum wage last March, they now back the ordinance.   In a May 4th letter to Councilwoman Dianne Martinez since made public, Black Bear's owners have reversed themselves, "we are comfortable with proposed resolutions [sic] that the City Mayor and Council members have reached" they said.

Businesses Flee The E'Ville Eye Blog
In anticipation of the epic May 5th meeting, the E'Ville Eye started lining up the business community against the wage ordinance.  The Editor put up a graphic portraying many logos of Emeryville businesses, highlighting their disdain for the minimum wage ordinance in an April 29th story.  But even before the meeting, several businesses demanded Mr Arias take down their logos.  Rotten City Pizza on Hollis Street was one, "We support the minimum wage ordinance" the owner told the Tattler.  "We did not give Rob permission to use our logo" he added.  The Area Director of I-HOP, Gary Marquez also told the Tattler the E'Ville Eye used their logo without permission, "I don't want our logo on anything we didn't pre-approve" he said.  Mr Marquez also said he now likes the minimum wage ordinance the way it has been crafted, a 'good compromise' he said of it and he volunteered that he values all his employees, even the one's earning the minimum wage, "Our employees are our number one asset" he said.

Highest In The Nation:
Badge Of Honor or Mark Of Shame?
Arguably it's the most righteous piece of civic legislation in Emeryville history, the raise of our minimum wage to the highest in the nation.  It's a powerful and demonstrative opening salvo in an Emeryville City Hall eager to change it's long time pro-developer, pro-business reputation to one representing the people's interests, the interests of social and economic justice.  They have a lot to make up for.  After all, this same City Hall has for a generation delivered to our town many development projects stuffed with tons of low paying service sector jobs.
After July 1st, when the national media starts reporting on what Emeryville has done, those among us who don't want our city to continue to be a locus for poverty, those who value human dignity and an honest paycheck for an honest day's work will take pride in our local government and this City Council majority's work.
Shockingly, what we who value these virtues consider honorable, is the same thing some business hold-outs and dead-enders like the E'Ville Eye consider a mark of shame.  When that blog tells its readers Emeryville is to have the highest minimum wage in the nation, it's meant to be seen as an outrage even as it appropriates progressive language to feign a progressive outlook.  But this is the same sort of talk we have heard before whenever real progressives move to increase the minimum wage.  That blog and its hangers on may use progressive language but theirs is a dark vision of our town.  The true progressives, the ones moving Emeryville forward, can be found among our Emeryville City Council majority, performing the work local government is supposed to do.  We expect them to complete this vital and meaningful work they've taken up on Tuesday.

Logos of Businesses Against the Minimum Wage
Screen shot of E'Ville Eye April 29th story.

Logos Missing: Later E'Ville Eye Screen Shot
Without fanfare, the Editor has been quietly 
removing logos from the story as businesses say 
no thanks to the dark anti-minimum wage, anti-progressive 
vision promulgated by that blog.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Emeryville's Worthless General Plan

General Plan:
Stuck in a Wet Paper Bag, Can't Get Out

News Analysis/Opinion
Emeryville has a really impressive General Plan...outwardly impressive but alas, essentially worthless.
It's the premier planning document that directs how our town is to develop over time.  It's impressive because among other things, it was forged democratically by the people of Emeryville.  Indeed, our General Plan was so democratically vetted, it has received an award from the state for that, lending it a voice of authority.  More than 25% of Emeryville residents took part in developing the General enviable percentage other cities would love to have to lend credibility to their general plans.  The full community engagement allows us to say with confidence our General Plan represents what the people collectively want for our city. 

Nevertheless, after having spent some $4 million on the General Plan several years ago, the Plan has become increasingly known by developers as having no value.  It's worthless because it has proven to have a total lack authoritative force regardless all the public buy-in.   For instance in every single contest between a developer that wanted to tear down a building in Emeryville and the protections afforded to it against demolition as mandated by the General Plan, our feeble Plan has buckled under the strain.  And then the walls of the building buckled under the developer's wreaking ball.  

This remarkable disconnect between what the people want and what actually gets delivered has existed because of a hidden pro-developer agenda by the City Council majority for many years.  The agenda has caused us to lose our architectural heritage among other social ills.

Twenty five years ago, Emeryville was primarily a place of 19th Century factories and warehouses.  Vernacular and handsome historic brick buildings were abundant. The General Plan identified many specific buildings as being 'architecturally significant' and protected them from demolition.  The current iteration of the General Plan as well as earlier editions of it were clear: historic brick buildings were catalogued and suggested be saved and rehabilitated for new uses.  Besides the historical legacy and all the documented social good tidings such buildings provide, another benefit is realized when older buildings are retained; entrepreneurial start-up businesses and locally serving businesses are given a place to thrive owing to the cheaper rents older buildings allow. 

In November 2014, Emeryville finally turned a corner and elected a progressive City Council majority.  We like to think the hidden agenda deference to developers died with the old guard Council majority.  We like to imagine the wreaking ball will henceforth only be swung against buildings without historic and architectural merit.  Unfortunately though, that November day of people power came too late for vast swaths of our town and we're going to have to live with the new 'any town' built Emeryville for generations to come.

Consider the pie shaped building at 3850 San Pablo Avenue.  The Emeryville General Plan was unequivocal; this building, 100 years old and torn down in 2000, should have been saved.  One gets a visceral sense of the people's wisdom reflected in their General Plan by gazing at the before and after pictures below:

3850 San Pablo Avenue, early 20th Century (photo used with permission)
Note the 'Key System' street car rails on the street.
This building was destroyed in 2000 in order to build...

3850 San Pablo Avenue today

(the trees are nice)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Emery Instructional Aide Layoffs To Harm ESL Students

Rolling Layoffs Begin

Crisis in the School District Continues

The Emery Unified School District will tonight consider a number of layoffs, including the Instructional Aides at Anna Yates Elementary School.  The Aides were distributing the below letter, addressed to the School Board, to citizens after school on Tuesday to inform them of the impending layoffs and to garner support.  The full text of their letter, which notes the particularly detrimental affect these layoffs will have on English-language learners, is provided below.