Search The Tattler

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

RULE Meeting

From RULE:

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Making our city a great place to live and work!  Come and plan for the year ahead with your progressive neighbors.

Next Meeting:  We're at Doyle St. for Saturday meetings 

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Saturday, Feb. 18, 10:00 - 12:00 AM

       -Laura McCamy of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Committee             priorities for 2017

        -Planning and goals for RULE in 2017

Bring breakfast and tea provided

 See you there!  Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee

Thursday, February 9, 2017

City of Emeryville Suspects Black Women

City of Emeryville's Comfort Zone: 
Racist Stereotyping

All Black People Implicated As Crime Suspects 
 No Other Physical Descriptions Offered

Once again: Nothing about age, hair style/color, facial features, body type/height, clothing, or any other helpful descriptions.

Emeryville Police Chief
Jennifer Tejada

'Black females are suspects
in the Gap robbery'.
The City of Emeryville wants citizens to know there was a robbery at the Gap store at 5690 Bay Street in December and there are two "Black female" suspects still at large in that stolen merchandise case.  The City wants the people of Emeryville to be on the lookout for any Black females because they might have committed the crime and the police department needs help bringing them to justice.  To help citizens identify the suspects, the City of Emeryville tells us the females are "Black"....  No further descriptions are offered but the City thinks that's good enough to help us track the criminals down.  If it doesn't help directly solve the crime, it will likely get the citizens to look at Black females with more suspicion.  Perhaps that's the real reason for the paucity of descriptions offered by the City of Emeryville's crime blotter.

December's listing is from the Emeryville Police crime blotter published by the City of Emeryville every month.  The December Bay Street robbery with its two Black female suspects is added to the November robbery the City alerted us to at 6399 Christie Avenue with its three "Black male" suspects and the 3839 Emery Street shoplifting case involving a "Black female", both cases offered in the Emeryville Police Department crime statistics blotter posted on the City's website.
In all these cases, no other descriptions are offered by the City other than the 'Black' race and gender of the suspects.  It's likely enough to get many citizens to look at all Black people more suspiciously.   And that's seen as a good thing by the City of Emeryville.  We know this is true because they wouldn't have posted the crime blotter in November and December without physical and other descriptions of the crime suspects otherwise.

Emeryville City Manager
Carolyn Lehr

'Black males and Black females
are crime suspects in Emeryville.
Help us find them'. 
After the Tattler alerted the people to this racist practice by our city last month, the City has now doubled down on the racial stereotyping in its publicly posted crime blotter.  Whereas before, it could have been seen as possibly nothing more than insensitivity, epic insensitivity, now it's obvious this is all intentional.  Implicated in the racist stereotyping is the Chief of Police Jennifer Tejada and the City Manager Carolyn Lehr.  The Chief of Police works for the City Manager and the City Council hires the City Manager.  Starting next month, if the public posting of the crime blotter goes on depicting Black people as suspects (or any other people for that matter) without any other descriptions offered other then gender, the City Council too will be dragged into this.  They've been warned.
Watch this space.

From Emeryville's December crime blotter:
Robbery: In District 5 at The Gap, 5690 Bay St., four females concealed clothing in a bag and attempted to leave the store without paying. As the employee grabbed the merchandise from one of the suspects, the suspect punched the employee. The suspects then fled the store with the loss. LOSS: Miscellaneous clothing. Suspects: #1 Female, unknown race, wearing a white pom pom hat, long braids, and a light colored jacket. #2 Black female with short red hair, no further description. #3 and #4 Black females, no further description. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Emeryville City Council: 'I Got Your Pledge of Allegiance Right Here'

City Council Sticks It To Trump/Fox News

After voting at their last meeting to dispense with the public administering of the loyalty oath known as the Pledge of Allegiance before each City Council meeting, tonight the Council led the first halting if out of key rendition of the populist collectivist Woody Guthrie song from the Depression era, 'This Land Is Your Land'.  It's out with God and country and in with godless communism in Emeryville.  The minute right wing Council matriarch Nora Davis is out the door, her (formerly) beloved Emeryville City Council goes all flakey.  What's next?  Providing accountability at City Hall?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

More Demolition in Emeryville's "Area of Stability"

Emeryville's Last Stand of True Family Friendly Housing in Peril

Detached Single Family Residences Make Way For Apartment Blocks in Triangle/North Emeryville Neighborhoods

Big Changes Coming to the Areas of 'Stability'

1 :  the quality, state, or degree of being stable: such as   a :  the strength to stand or endure :  firmness 
2 : the quality or state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change

News Analysis
As development pressures continue to mount in Emeryville, another detached single family home faces the wreaking ball in order to make way for another techie four-plex on Ocean Avenue as was presented at a Planning Commission study session last week.  The looming demolition could represent the beginning of a gathering storm of such single family to four-plex conversions in the City's last traditional family oriented neighborhoods despite prohibitions spelled out in the General Plan against demolition in designated "areas of stability".  The Ocean Avenue development is in such a designated zone and to move it forward, the City is re-interpreting the word stability to include the ability to demolish, a expansion of developer prerogative from only two years ago.  Further, the City is now interpreting language encouraging density embedded in the General Plan to exacerbate and actually encourage the demolition of the remaining single family residences in Emeryville, a subversion of the idea of stability.

Detached Single Family Home
The first choice for actual Emeryville families but
limited to the Triangle and North Emeryville
neighborhoods. The last true family friendly 

housing and a feeder for the School District.
The 1270 Ocean Avenue four-plex development proposal (presented at the January 26th Planning Commission meeting) would dramatically increase the building height over the existing single family home as well as the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) on the property and of course it would also increase the residential density.  Those qualities are all within the bounds of Emeryville's zoning ordinance for the neighborhood (with development bonuses) and in fact the demolition and increase in density has earned the developer coveted FAR bonuses allowing for much less landscaped or open space on the site.

The City's realignment to interpret the zone of stability to mean a zone of demolition has moved the needle a far amount in just two years.  At another site (also on Ocean Avenue) the community was in an uproar when a developer bought a single family home with an eye to demolish it to build a four-plex but the City invoked the stability clause in the General Plan.  That move prompted the developer to let the home sit vacant for several years letting rot to take hold of the unmaintained structure.  The developer then made a successful argument that the home was beyond repair and he was granted permission to build his four-plex.

That was then, this is now.  Now the staff doesn't even see the idea of demolition as problematic.  At 1270 Ocean, the staff is encouraging the approval of the project but they didn't even bother to tell the Planning Commission at the January 26th meeting the proposed development falls within the zone of stability as identified by the General Plan, a designation meant until recently to curtail such demolition conversions.

Apartment Building
Despite some three bedroom units, families don't 

 want to live here.  Developers throw in children's 
play equipment but families vote with their feet.
The staff's failure to disclose to the Planning Commission decision makers the fact that 1270 Ocean Avenue falls within the zone of stability may be an omission that's more than an oversight.

'Stability' Taken to Mean 'Demolition'
Outside of Emeryville, the word 'stability' is generally used to mean 'not anticipated to change substantially' and 'the strength to stand or endure'.  Even here, the General Plan itself uses the standard definition; in its designated areas of stability in town, the General Plan states "Areas of stability are those parts of the city that are not anticipated to change significantly in character, land use or development intensity over the next 20 years [the life of the General Plan]. "

The definition of the word stability becomes more expansive in the way the staff now sees it, including demolition of the stock of single family homes in town: "Stability doesn't mean NO change" a staff member who wished anonymity told the Tattler regarding 1270 Ocean.  The salient part of 'stability' according to City Hall is not the enduring nature of the housing types but rather that the new apartment buildings fit in with the character of the neighborhood in the aggregate as is spelled out in the General Plan the staff tells us, apparently lacking a sense of irony.

The Last Developer Battleground in Emeryville
The City Hall expanded definition of stability will serve as a windfall for developers seeking avenues for profit after the 25 year Emeryville building boom.  The boom has left the older residential neighborhoods, the areas of stability, the last place left to turn a profit.  The last three large development projects in town, Anton/Nady, the Marketplace and Sherwin Williams (primarily residential developments) approved last year, together collectively represent the last of the large residential projects that will be built in our town for at least 20 years (the average lifespan of a typical commercial building being about 30 years).  Residential developers, long given the keys to Emeryville by City Council majorities over the years, now have few opportunities left here and so it is understandable they would turn to the zones of stability to eek out the last little bit from our town.

A quick back-of-the-napkin calculation shows the potential for handsome profits; home prices in these two Emeryville neighborhood zones of stability run about $500K to $600K for a fixer upper.  Tear down costs are about $30K and building costs run less than $1 million for a four-plex.  Sale price would be about $800K for the upper end market (times four) leaving about $1.5 million made over six to eight months.  After financing costs are figured in, a tidy profit remains.  That's not enough to interest the biggest developers we've been attracting up till now but plenty of mid-sized developers would gladly enter this field.  All it takes to get the party started is a re-defining of the word stability to open the floodgates to developers.  And that's something the staff at City Hall has already taken care of.

The Late Great Single Family Residence
This is how the City of Emeryville defines
a stable neighborhood.
Single family detached residences are by far the most popular type of housing for families.  Among other advantages, the private backyards associated with this kind of housing permits young children to play unattended, parents the time to do the myriad things that need attending to besides their children.  This kind of housing is abundant in the suburbs and it's the primary reason young parents often decamp for the leafy hinterlands.  Emeryville's housing stock at this point is only a small fraction detached single family (and it's all in the zones of stability), but the two zones of stability are the biggest feeder areas as a percentage for children attending the Emery Unified School District.
But after developing the rest of our town, it is here, the last low density places left in Emeryville where developers now turn to extract their profits.   The word 'stability' is meant to stop this from happening regardless any new interpretation by City Hall.

With a staff willing to overtly turn the meaning of the word stability on its head to facilitate the remake of these last traditional neighborhoods in town, some might find it curious that the General Plan uses the word stability to describe what should be done with the single family home neighborhoods when it presumably would be easier to facilitate the demolition of these last homes in Emeryville without that word in the Plan.  Why is the word stability used for the North Emeryville residential neighborhood and the Triangle neighborhood in our General Plan?

The idea of the zones of stability rose up when during the public vetting process for the formulation of the new general plan in 2009, residents were alarmed that the staff was pushing such an increase in density for our town (compared to our former general plan).  The allowable huge building height increases and residential density increases over the old plan were a cause of concern for the residents.  The zones of stability were added to mollify criticism because at that time, most Emeryville residents lived in these zones.  Now after so many new apartment projects having been built outside the zones of stability, this is no longer the case it's helpful to know.

1270 Ocean Avenue
The little home on the right with the gardens and
large backyard will become a three story wall.
The final irony is that unless the new building replacing the former single family residence has at least 10 units, the project need not be constrained by Emeryville's family friendly housing ordinance.  Thus, 1270 Ocean Avenue at four units (eight if the ground floor bedrooms with their own baths and separate entrances are subsequently rented out via Airbnb) will not be built as a 'family friendly' project.

1270 Ocean Avenue, while certainly not the first demolition of a single family home in a zone of stability since the new General Plan was certified, will add to the precedent being built up that will prove harder to resist if a resistance were ever to be mounted.

Amend the General Plan
The drive for home demolition in East Emeryville is further buttressed by a provision in the code that makes density like a one way check valve; it can only go up, never down.  A tear down of a duplex say could only happen if the developer built at least a replacement if not a triplex or more.  And that means over time the zones of stability will be completely made over and Emeryville's last single family residences will cease to exist.
A fix for the bad optics for Emeryville, its oft repeated claims of being a family friendly town running at cross purposes with language that encourages demolition of the most family friendly housing in town, would be to amend the General Plan.  The most obvious amendment would be to eliminate the zones of stability altogether to remove the hypocrisy.  Another amendment could be to keep the zones of stability but remove the language that encourages developers to demolish these family homes.  The City of Emeryville is probably most comfortable leaving be the mutually exclusive provisions ensconced in the General Plan.  It's the path of least resistant even if it is so easily construed as hypocritical.

Map from Emeryville's General Plan
1270 Ocean Avenue is located between Ocean and Peabody Lane; the zone of stability

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mayor's 'State of the City' Address Premier at RULE Meeting

From RULE:

RULE is please to host Emeryville Mayor Scott Donahue for a presentation on current priorities of our City Council.  

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Making our city a great place to live and work!  Come and plan for the year ahead with your progressive neighbors

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Sat., Jan. 28, 10:00 - 12:00

-Mayor Scott Donahue gives the premiere iteration of his "State of the City" presentation....what's coming up, what's important to the new City Council. Have your say.             
-Plans and goals for 2017, all are welcome to have input.

Bring breakfast and tea provided

See you there!  
Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Emeryville Public Library: Promised, Not Delivered

Library Bait & Switch?
We Paid $95 Million for a Library, 
Where Is It?

Public Cafe, Jobs Training Center and Solar Panels 
Also Promised But Missing

City/School District Won't Say 

In 2010, the 73% of Emeryville voters who voted to tax themselves $95 million for a public library at the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life and have seen their property taxes go up commensurately now that the Center has been finished these past five months, would be expected to wonder why no such library has been built. These same residents might also wonder why the job training center they also paid for has not been provided at the ECCL, nor has the cafe associated with the library they paid for been built.  Additionally, they voted for solar panels on the roof at the Center of 'Community' Life, presumably saving these same taxpayers money on electricity.  It was all paid for but none of it has been provided.
Distressingly, a year after the Tattler began a campaign to get some public accountability on this paid for infrastructure, we're no farther along as far as answers are concerned.  Officials at the City of Emeryville and the Emery School District still publicly say eventually these amenities will be built but they're not saying when, "We are exploring that" says City Manager Carolyn Lehr.
Privately, two officials who wished to remain anonymous told us they doubt these promised projects of the ECCL will ever get built.

Before the Measure J election in 2010, a public record in documents and video recordings of promises to provide the amenities was built up, leaving the City and the School District now exposed.  Measure J was the ballot initiative that brought the Center of 'Community' Life and was famously oversold as many have pointed out.  What beckoned at the ECCL as an aching to be filled up wish list for politicians seeking favor, easy in 2010, now becomes a sword of Damocles it would seem.

Former City Councilwoman Jennifer West who urged passage of Measure J told the Tattler recently she is particularly concerned about the fact that the public library with its promised public cafe has not been built, "The Council and the staff need to understand this was the goal.  It was sold to the public as part of the ECCL package" she said.
Ms West told prospective voters on her Council blog in 2010 to vote for Measure J, stating, "The library is another need in our area. According to the Oakland Public Library, this geographical area is under served and needs an expansion or an additional library.  A great school needs a library as well and by combining the library needs of both the schools and the public, we can create the efficiencies of scale to serve all users much better."  The former Mayor West used her blog to warn the community to remain vigilant, presciently expressing concern about "trust in our elected officials and leaders on this project".

The jobs training center was to be available for students at Emery but also it was sold to voters as an integral part of the Community Center and its services were to be available to the whole community.  The jobs center isn't even on the radar at this point; Pedro Jimenez, head of the Emeryville Community Services Department told the Tattler, "I'm unaware of it" and he said he doesn't know where it would even go if it were to be built.
Racks of solar panels that the voters authorized and taxpayers paid for at the ECCL were supposed to have been installed offsetting the electrical tab and saving taxpayers money but they have not been and officials would not say whether there are any specific plans to install them.

The public library, the job training center and the solar panels were explicitly part of the Measure J bond project list that was approved by voters in 2010 and likely must be provided by law since general obligation bond financing was used under the aegis of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the laws commensurate with that body.  Failure to comply with the terms of the bond sales could constitute fraud.
The cafe, as promised in City and School District documents as well as elucidated in many public meetings leading up to the vote, is not required by law to build, just ethics.

By 2015, it was becoming clear the ECCL project would not deliver all that was promised prompting then Emery School Board member and now City Councilman Christian Patz to muse, "Philosophically I agree with a lot of the concepts [of the ECCL]" he told the Hechinger Report, "but the execution has not been as promised".
Former Mayor Jac Asher was less circumspect, telling the Hechinger Report she didn't think the shared space idea behind the school/public library then touted would work, being "oversubscribed" as she said it would be.  The small parcel size of the ECCL space would drive this oversubscribing she said and called attempts to work out joint use by all stakeholders a 'logistical nightmare' for teachers and staff.

As far as the City of Emeryville is concerned as of now, these promised amenities will be built eventually but they refuse to commit to a date, "I can't give a date..." said Carolyn Lehr Emeryville City Manager, "it's not a simple thing".  However she did acknowledge the City is on the hook for providing the promised infrastructure, "I understand we're charged with bringing it forward" she said.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pledge of Allegiance Out, This Land is Your Land In

Fox News Bait:
This Land is Our Land-
No Allegiance to the Pledge of Allegiance in Emeryville

In yet another sure sign Emeryville has turned away from its conservative former self, last night the loyalty oath to God and country aka the Pledge of Allegiance was booted out of Emeryville and replaced with the lilting lyrics of a soft spoken Great Depression era populist from Oklahoma whose collectivist vision of America is sure to rile the feathers of more than a few conservatives.  The City Council voted to dispense with the standard recital of the Pledge of Allegiance before every meeting to now raising voices in a chorus of This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie at the start of each Council meeting from now on.
A lack of allegiance to the new President
 probably had something to do with the
City Council's decision to jettison
the Pledge of Allegiance.
 Mayor Scott Donahue led the drive to quit with the traditional recital of the Pledge at Emeryville City Council meetings but he acknowledged its positive community unifying effects and he suggested the community instead sing a verse or two of the popular 40's era song about how we're all in this boat together.  The Mayor's Council colleagues were quick to agree the Pledge has no place at Council meetings, especially with its god references but they only reluctantly signed onto the idea of singing and the vote to change the rules and procedures for the City to include This Land is Your Land won in a 3-2 split decision.  Council members Ally Medina and Christian Patz, self deprecating of their singing skills, outright said they would not be singing.
The Council also directed the City Clerk to prepare verses of a pledge to the California Constitution and the US Constitution for the Council members to make before they join the community in the singing in the People's Hall.

The Tattler has long advocated for dispensing with the McCarthyist loyalty oath that is the Pledge of Allegiance, it being quintessentially un-American with its calls for unswerving obedience and relinquishing of agency.  It would appear the Council agreed last night but singing the Woody Guthrie song before every meeting was the Mayor's idea.

The era of the Pledge of Allegiance in Emeryville, decades ensconced at City Hall, is now over; the new procedures are to be installed for the start of the first meeting in February at City Hall.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Wareham Development Seeks $3/4 Million Tax Rebate

Wareham Now Wants Retroactive Tax Credit After Transit Center Approval

Wareham Development Corporation, among developers, Emeryville's largest receiver of government largess, is seeking a retroactive rebate and credit of almost $729,000 from the City's developer impact fee schedule for Horton Street's Transit Center because four bus bays associated with the office tower will assist "public transportation facilities", something the developer claims the City agreed to, an argument that will be presented Tuesday.  A reading of the municipal code however negates Wareham's claim, a fact that will be presented by City Hall staff when the City Council considers whether to grant Wareham the tax relief Tuesday night at their regularly scheduled meeting.

The Transit Center
The 165' tall building will have four bus bays 
(hence 'transit').  The City Council overturned the 
Planning Commission who rejected the 
Transit Center because it has 
"too little public benefit". 
The Transit Center, a beleaguered and controversial project, features a 165' tall office building with 250,000 square feet of floor area and (together with it's parking structure across the street) will have almost 900 parking spaces.  It required special density bonuses to be granted to build the main tower over 100', leaving the developer's rebate in jeopardy the City says.   At issue is language in the municipal code that would preclude the City from giving the rebate to Wareham stating, 'no credit shall be provided against impact fees otherwise owed if an applicant has received a development bonus in accordance with the Planning Regulations for providing the specific facility'.
Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
Emeryville's most connected developer.
Not satisfied with all he's gotten from Emeryville 

up until now, he's been lobbying the City Council 
trying to get them to give him another gift of cash
Tuesday at the taxpayers expense. 

A vote by the City Council in Wareham's favor would rack up one more approbation from City Hall for the Transit Center, adding to the well documented litany of favors already showered upon Rich Robbins, Wareham's politically connected CEO.

The Transit Center project has already received indulgences from City Hall in the form of tax relief and forgiveness from codified internal City Hall adverse constraints; the General Plan was amended to exclude the 55 foot height limit at the future Transit Center site to allow for taller buildings there and the City Council put taxpayers on the hook for financing the project with public money by way of unprecedented tax increment financing, a deal that lets Wareham avoid taxes for 12 years that normally that would be paid to City Hall if the developer were to finance the project with his own money.  Additionally, Mr Robbins announced after approval was given for the project he would not remove all the toxic soil from the project site, regardless of former claims to the contrary; the main reason given for the project by former City Councilwoman Nora Davis and her colleagues.  Unabashedly, concerns over the remaining toxic soil on the site triggered Mr Robbins to get the City Council to agree to a 'no lawsuit clause', making it impossible to make the people of Emeryville whole, should a future problem occur.

Mr Robbins, a perennially favored developer with many friends on the former City Council, for years railed against the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, worried the 1800 car trips per day his project will put onto the boulevard would tend to make the City Council, with the public watching, skittish about approval for the project. However the Council has opted instead to ignore the 3000 vehicle trip per day constraints called out in Emeryville's Bike Plan for the street, letting Mr Robbins put all the extra traffic on the street unimpeded, regardless of its bike boulevard status.  Earlier, Mr Robbins incredulously maintained not one project generated car would use Overland Street (part of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard).  The 'not one car' claim was codified into an environmental document prepared for the project called a Mitigated Negative Declaration and was later found to be fraudulent. The claim drew strong condemnation from Jim Martin, the former Chair of the Planning Commission.
Sensing the irony of the glut of traffic generated by the ostensible bus/train project, former City Councilman Ken Bukowski was moved to publicly proclaim the Transit Center more accurately be called the "Automobile Center".  The Planning Commission rejected the Transit Center and then later again, rejected the Transit Center a second time, calling the project 'too short on public benefit', a cause former City Councilwomen Jennifer West and Jac Asher took up in their dissenting votes against the project on the Council.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pledge of Allegiance: Its Days Are Numbered in Emeryville

Emeryville Patriotism in the Age of Trump

Publicly Administered Loyalty Oath 
At City Hall Should Exit With Trump's Entrance

"I pledge allegiance to the United States...".  "Without benefit of critical thinking, I swear my loyalty"- how's that sound, especially now that Donald Trump will wield near supreme power?  How about, "No matter what Donald Trump has planned for us, I pledge my allegiance to him".  How's that sound?  Those stand-in pledges can now be construed to be at the black heart of the Pledge of Allegiance, an un-American loyalty oath wherein the speaker unthinkingly gives up his or her own agency to do the bidding of the federal government (and by extension, its executive).  Starting on January 20th the beneficiary of that bidding has a new neo-fascist face most Emeryville residents will be uncomfortable with.
The American loyalty oath, before bootcamp-like in its coercive adherence, now suddenly seems positively Pyongyang-like.
The eagle wants us to make a pledge of allegiance:
to ban pesticides and end habitat destruction. 
That is unless the Emeryville City Council does its patriotic duty and dispels with the public administering of the Pledge of Allegiance before every Council meeting; something they have pledged, so to speak, to consider at the Council meeting on January 17th.

A change in how our local government sanctifies its democratic legitimacy is shaping up.  Mayor Scott Donahue is directing the Council to consider all manner of loyalty oath Pledge replacement possibilities to satisfy the function of bringing the community together at public City Council meetings including the singing of the Woody Guthrie classic 'This Land is Your Land' and/or the public recital of Walt Whitman poetry.  It represents an important shift away from the banal provincialism of Emeryville reliant on kitsch sophistry as it is to a more aspirational civic engagement as it could be.

Many towns in the Bay Area don't do the loyalty pledge before their public meetings.  Indeed, there's no law saying the oath must be administered, so why do we do it?  We can see plenty that's put at risk by administering the oath but nothing that can be gained that couldn't be gained by a less authoritarian and demanding avowal such as the populist unifying hosannas from Mr Guthrie or Mr Whitman.

“May we think of freedom, 
not as the right to do as we please, 
but as the opportunity to do what is right.” 
- Walt Whitman

Besides the oath being un-American, we've noticed the City Council, while asking us to join them in reciting the oath, don't like to say it themselves.  Even former Councilwoman Nora Davis (how we love to say that), the premier conservative on the Council, stood silently as do her colleagues whenever the oath is being administered.  It is the crowd in the Council chambers, cowed as they are, that freely give away their agency hands on hearts and sign on to relinquishing their critical thinking rights so wantonly as they speak the words.  The hypocrisy of this Council on this score has been blinding; if you're going to ask us to say the pledge, don't you think at least you yourself should say it, City Council?

Under God
Kicked to the curb: Jesus wants us to
continue praising him at City Hall.
Nonetheless, now it would seem, those days are behind us.  We like the Mayor's idea especially of having the community unite in song with the palliative effects brought on from This Land is Your Land with its Trump-canceling collectivist vision of our community and country.  This will likely get the right wing all agog and agitated, a nice side benefit.
The Council will also consider various non-theocratic pledges, for instance from a contest held by TheHumanist however inspiring as some may be, those represent just more of the same; a pledge.  The government should not ask our community to pledge it anything.  Loyalty is to be earned, not coerced.  We urge the Council to reject the Pledge of Allegiance being replaced with another pledge, even one that kicks Jesus to the curb.

We hope this City Council rejection of the American loyalty oath will spill over to the School District where it's needed at least as much as at City Hall.  We have long been agitating against the Council led administrating of the McCarthyist loyalty oath especially at the School Board meetings.  How blinkered is it we have to ask, that the School District spends so much time teaching the value of critical thinking skills to the students only to subvert that message every School Board meeting when everyone enters collective amnesia and again nearly on automatic, goes through the anti-critical saccharine display of phony rectitude and piety.   Back in the dark days of 2011, the School Board was on the verge of dispensing with the loyalty oath but reactionary forces rose up to make sure the District stayed on the straight and narrow with God and country.

It shouldn't take the terrifying idea of President Trump to spur the City Council into action on this and we're not sure if that's indeed what was instrumental in their turn around; really it doesn't matter.  We just welcome rationality in association with public policy at City Hall and we applaud the Council for this symbolic but still important rejection of heretofore unneeded and unhelpful nonsense.

We're a community here that has allegiances we'd like to proclaim, yes, but we're a community that has allegiance to redwood forests, gulf stream waters and the collectivist idea that the land was made for you and me.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another Year Passes, Still No Horton Street Bike Boulevard

It's déjà vu all over again
December 31, 2016 is like December 31, 2015;
Bike Plan Still Being Ignored

Today, the Tattler brings back our ongoing end of December yearly feature: We re-post our original September 2012 story (below in non-italicized print) on Emeryville's Horton Street Bike Boulevard every December 31st and will continue every year until City Hall either stops stalling and implements our Bike Plan or if they refuse, amend our Bike Plan and remove Horton's Bike Boulevard status, additionally they could amend the Plan to allow more than 3000 vehicle trips per day on Bike Boulevards.  Those are their only choices available as dictated by the Plan.  Stalling is not allowed.  This end-of-the-year feature serves as an annual clearinghouse for any news on the hold up of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard over the previous year.   
Readers bored or exasperated with the ongoing story of City Hall inaction on Horton Street can simply read the year end synopsis in the italics preceding the September 2012 re-post every December 31st here: 

2016 Synopsis-
"I wake up every day, right here in 
Punxsutawney, and it's always 
February 2nd [or December 31st 
in Emeryville], and there's nothing 
I can do about it."

In 2016, the Horton Street Bike Boulevard finally died with the signing of the Sherwin Williams Statement of Overriding Considerations. Before that fateful day, the City Council voted to place Level Three traffic calming measures in the form of three temporary speed bumps along Horton Street between 45th Street and 53rd Street.  The bumps went in in November.  It represented no forward movement for the implementation of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard because Horton Street was already at Level Three and because the street still remains substantially more than 3000 vehicle trips per day (the cut off point where a street can be called a bike boulevard).  The speed bumps have been called out as unlikely to succeed in bringing down the volume of traffic by Alta Planning, the writers of Emeryville's $200,000 Bike Plan but may cause vehicle speed to be reduced.  Additionally, the Level Three speed bumps are counter to what Mayor Scott Donahue and Councilwoman Dianne Martinez promised voters in 2014 when they said they would move Horton Street to Level Four traffic calming (chicanes or chokers).  Notably, City Engineer Maurice Kaufman said he would not allow any Level Four or Level Five traffic diversion in Emeryville regardless of the Bike Plan's requirements for it.  But the most important event of 2016 is the Sherwin Williams decision and it's Statement of Overriding Considerations signed by the City Council that says Horton Street will have 4000 vehicle trips per day forever (with more coming every year) rendering a bike boulevard impossible for Horton Street.  This year end wrap up at the Tattler will continue until the City Council finally amends our Bike Plan and removes the bike boulevard status for Horton Street returning it to a regular street.

In 1998, Emeryville adapted its Bike Plan after years of study and $200,000  subsequently spent on it.  In 2013, the City Council agreed to spend $10,000 to study the Bike Plan to figure out how to implement the Horton Street Bike Boulevard required by the Plan.  This $10,000 study is referred to as the 'study of the study'.  The Bike Plan doesn't call for any studies to be done to implement its requirements, it should be noted.  In 2014 City Hall held two community meetings about the study of the study but no action on Horton Street was taken that year or the next year (finally came in the form of the November 2016 speed bumps).  Also in 2014, City Hall found out another Bike Boulevard, the 45th Street Bike Boulevard is also in violation due to too many cars on that street.  Nothing has been done to rectify that either.  The Tattler investigation of the 45th Street and Horton Street problems was revealed when we reported the City Engineer lied to the City Manager to stop the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.  

Here then is the September 29th, 2012 Tattler story we re-print every December 31st:

Major Traffic Calming Long Past Due For Horton Street

Emeryville's premiere bicycle thoroughfare, the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, has so much high speed traffic that it has become unsafe for bicycling.  So says Alta Planning, a Berkeley based urban bike network design firm that was commissioned by the City of Emeryville to study bicycling in town.  The $200,000 study, now incorporated into Emeryville's Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan and adopted into law by the city council lays waiting, ready to be implemented.
The question is, will it really be implemented or will it languish in some dusty corner at City Hall as so many other expensive studies have done?  Given the city council's baleful history of failing to calm the traffic on Horton Street for bicycle traffic and working to improve the street for vehicle use at the expense of bicycling, it seems likely it will be ignored and will remain a major automobile thoroughfare, unsafe for bicycles and becoming increasingly more so over time.  

Central to the Alta study is a limit on the number of cars that may use Horton Street, set at 3000 vehicles per day, before a mandatory set of traffic calming procedures kicks in.  The idea is that the traffic calming fixes will lower the number of vehicles that use the bike boulevard down below the 3000 maximum.  It should be noted Emeryville's 3000 number earmarked for bike boulevards is larger than any other city in the Bay Area. 

A choker is an example of a 'neck-down'
called for by level 4 traffic calming.
The prescribed traffic calming comes in a series of increasingly interventionist levels, one through five, that reduces traffic volume and speed, the last such level resulting in a total diversion for through traffic.  Each level requires two years to adequately assess its efficacy.  

At this point, Horton Street has already gone through the first three traffic calming levels; these involve street stenciling, signage and intersection "bulb-outs".  Now, since traffic has not subsided on Horton (it's actually increased), it's time for level 4 traffic calming to be implemented according to the Plan.
Level 4 calls for "significant traffic calming", specifically, 'neck downs' or traffic limiters such as 'chokers', designed to act like a one lane bridge permitting only one car through at a time.

Here's what the Bike Plan calls for on Emeryville's bike boulevards:

Level 1 Basic Bicycle Boulevard- signs, pavement markings
Level 2 Enhanced Bicycle Boulevard- way-finding signs, reduced delays at intersections
Level 3 Limited Traffic Calming- intersection bulb-outs
Level 4 Significant Traffic Calming- neck-downs
Level 5 Traffic Diversion

Level 5 calls for diverters: This
is called out only if level 4 doesn't
work after two years.
The problem is the Bike Committee has already twice voted on significant traffic calming for Horton Street in years past.  Both times the city council has overridden the committee's findings.  The last time the committee voted unanimously to add such calming, councilwoman Nora Davis explained her veto to the committee, "I have no problem putting paint on the asphalt [pavement markings]" but anything more dramatic than that would draw a veto from her and consequently also from the council majority.

In the intervening two and a half years since the last council veto shutting down Horton Street traffic calming, the city has commissioned and now encoded the $200,000 Alta study.

While we acknowledge Ms Davis' forthrightness in explaining to the people why they shouldn't expect safe biking routes in town, we call on the rest of the council to abide by the new Bike Plan they have adopted.  The fact that other such documents have been subverted in the past by the council should not serve as a precedent for inaction on Horton Street.  It's never too late to start working towards livability and rational public policy.  Let's make bicycling safe on the Horton Street Bicycle Boulevard.  It's time for a choker on Horton Street.