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Monday, August 29, 2016

Community Fallout Over School Board President's 'Dictatorial Power Grab'

Teachers, School Board Agree Board President John Affeldt Overstepped His Authority

Democracy Stalls

School Site Called 'Unsafe', Curriculum 'Not Ready'

The fallout continues to build in the community from a palace coup at the August 24th School Board meeting when Board President John Affeldt improperly stopped a vote of a majority of his colleagues on delaying the opening of the school due to safety concerns for the children because the new school site at the Center of 'Community' Life is still under construction.  The vote stoppage is a serious violation with serious ramifications teachers said after the contentious meeting and the law is clear that any duly seconded motion by the Board must be allowed a vote.  At least one teacher characterized what Mr Affeldt did Wednesday night as a "dictatorial power grab".

Emery School Board President John Affeldt
Wouldn't let the Board vote.
Earned the enmity of assembled teachers,
parents and the Board.
The meeting, held on the night before the scheduled first day of school, was temporarily adjourned by Mr Affeldt so he could place a phone call to the District's counsel to inquire about the legality over a vote to delay the opening of the school the Board wished to make.  Ten teachers and two parents testified that the school isn't safe for the children and the teachers also noted they hadn't received the curriculum from the District, nor textbooks.  The teachers were adamant that the opening be delayed for a few days at least.  A majority of School Board members agreed with the teachers in a straw vote.

Mr Affeldt however joined with School Superintendent John Rubio in insisting the school must open as planned, regardless of any stated safety concerns or lack of curriculum and that even if they agreed, it was "too late for that" anyway.  They posited the agenda item under consideration was an informational item and that any voting would constitute a Brown Act violation.  Board member Christian Patz noted the Brown Act provides for work arounds if an emergency is declared and that student safety constitutes an emergency.
Construction Zone Trip Hazard
The blue tape was added after a teacher broke
her leg. The tape cautions teachers, parents
and children about the two inch level change.  

Superintendent Rubio immediately sought to downplay teacher and parents concerns over the children's safety, calling the whole thing an "emergency created out of thin air".  Notably, a teacher broke her leg two days before in the construction site when she was attempting to prepare her classroom for the children on opening day.  Turner Construction, the contractor in charge, placed some blue tape over the trip hazard after two more teachers tripped.  Superintendent Rubio did acknowledge the teacher's broken leg and said the trip hazard would be fixed by Turner soon.

Former City Councilman and current School Board candidate Ken Bukowski Thursday noted the action by Mr Affeldt represented an overstepping of his authority.  Mr Bukowski forwarded the following letter to subscribers to his 'you tube' page where he provides video of School Board meetings and other important regional public policy meetings.                                                              

Here is a summation of candidate Bukowski's accounting of the meeting:
"It was a very contentious meeting.  The main discussion was the question of opening of school for today, August 25th.  Numerous teachers came to the Board and asked for the opening to be delayed because the project is not complete.  Teachers also claimed they did not have their curriculum to provide instruction.  There were many comments about items in the hallway.
A majority of the Board wanted to vote to delay the opening, but Board President John Affeldt did not agree.  He claimed a vote could not be taken, since the item on the agenda was only informational.  However Christian Patz said, the Board could declare there was an emergency, and thereby direct the Superintendent to delay the opening. 
The meeting was recessed to allow Affeldt to check with County Counsel.  When Affeldt returned, he claimed the counsel said, there was insufficient reason to claim an emergency existed.
The purpose for checking with the attorney was to see if a procedure for declaring an emergency was possible.  Generally, legal counsel tries to justify the wishes of a board majority, if feasible.  It must be clear Affeldt likely framed the question to obtain the desired result. 
The question of whether or not an emergency exists is a decision for the Board to determine.  The Board is responsible for its decision, not the attorney.  Affeldt, overstepped his authority, and would not allow the board to make a decision.  He failed to respect other board members by failing to call the question, despite numerous requests.
The testimony of several teachers and members of the public provided sufficient information to raise the question of safety, as well as saying they could not perform their professional duties.  It was clear there was no orientation.  I know it took me almost 20 minutes to find the board meeting. Certainly hundreds of kids on the site for the first time would have to be confused.
The Board president has no right to fail to call a vote, if there is a motion and a second. The Brown act says if it is an issue of health and safety the board can act. 
The Superintendent said, if the school opening is delayed he didn't want to be responsible for what could happen to the kids who could not attend school.  However, opening a brand new project, there is always a possibility there could be a problem.  For example, on opening day if the electricity went out, and the school didn't open, it would not be a huge surprise. 
The school district is never responsible for the conduct or behavior of students who are not in school, at any time.  However, if kids show up and sustain injuries at the school, especially if there are known problems, it could rise to the claim of negligence when you know a dangerous condition is pre-existing.
I was disappointed with the way it went.  It may have shattered the confidence of students and teachers, unnecessarily, just to make an opening date.  Anything done in haste, is usually not the way to go."

A video of the meeting can be viewed HERE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Breaking News Story: School Board Considering Delaying School Opening Tomorrow

(9:00 pm ECCL Site)
After hearing dramatic testimony from ten teachers concerning primarily the safety of the children at the construction site of the Center of 'Community' Life for tomorrow's scheduled first day of school, the School Board is seeking legal counsel to consider an emergency delay of the opening of the school.

Teachers expressed concern that the site is unsafe owing to its unfinished condition and they complained the District had not even prepared the academic curriculum for the long planned start up.  Adding to the drama of the safety concerns was one teacher who testified in a leg cast after she broke her leg on an unsafe level change at the school site two days ago while attempting to prepare for the opening of the school.  At least two other teachers also tripped on the hazard it was reported.  Three Board members said the school should not open tomorrow.
Superintendent John Rubio told the Board he intends on opening the school regardless of the teacher concerns calling their pleas on behalf of the children's safety "An emergency created out of thin air".   As of 9 pm tonight, the question of opening the school tomorrow am is still up in the air.

Several hundred parents with their children are expected to descend on the site in about ten hours.

After taking advise from legal counsel, Superintendent John Rubio and School Board President John Affeldt  refused to call the question of a duly motioned and seconded motion to delay opening the school citing a possible Brown Act violation were such a vote to happen.  After losing an earlier straw vote (3-2) where the Superintendent and Board President made their views on opening the school regardless of the safety problems brought up by the teachers, the two said a vote would be illegal and they downplayed any safety problems with the construction site, teacher injuries notwithstanding.

In a moment of passion, Mr Rubio volunteered to walk the entire campus starting at 7 AM, clearing unsafe construction materials and debris.  Later he said it was too late to inform parents that the school opening would be delayed even if they could delay it.  Board member Patz invoked a provision within the Brown Act that allows the Board to take such an action after having declared an emergency situation, a finding Mr Affeldt was unimpressed with.  Most teachers left the room after it became clear their concerns weren't being listened to.

Monday, August 22, 2016

EBI Pedestrian Path Now Requires Taxpayers Pony Up $1 Million

A 'Done Deal' Turns Into a 'Pie-In-The-Sky'

EBI Pedestrian Path Replacement to Cost More Than 
$1 Million 

News Analysis
On May 3rd the Emeryville City Council voted unanimously to amend our General Plan and Conditions of Approval for a private school to kill a needed pedestrian path in the Triangle neighborhood with promises to build a nearby and better replacement path sometime in the future.  A quick check into the costs associated with such a replacement (more than one million taxpayer dollars) however reveals a Council promise that will likely go unfulfilled.  And so the Emeryville City Council moved a much needed pedestrian infrastructure improvement from "in the bag" to "don't hold your breath".

Former Emeryville
John Fricke

Identified the need
for better pedestrian
connections in the
Triangle Neighborhood.
He net us $525,000.
At their May 3rd meeting the Emeryville City Council finally made it official; at the request of Escuela Bilingue Internacional (EBI), a private school at 4550 San Pablo Avenue on the hook for building a public pedestrian path on their land behind their facility, the so called EBI pedestrian path between 45th and 47th streets is now gone, their Conditions of Approval and our General Plan having been amended by the Council to kill the path forever.  A finding of fact was inexplicably presented and entered into the record that the elimination of the path will "enhance the neighborhood".  
The Council, historically none too fond of pedestrian and bike paths, regardless, affirmed the need for a path connecting the two streets and they have assured the citizens they will build a new path further to the east to a more mid-block site, the problem with the EBI Path having been its location they tell us; too close to San Pablo Avenue.  What the City Council hasn’t told us however, is that whereas the EBI Path was a ‘gimme’, fully funded by EBI itself, the proposed mid-block path replacement will need to be funded by the taxpayers.  Further, the Council has not released a timeline on when they intend on building the new path.  The EBI Path, if it hadn’t been eliminated, would be here and being used by the community now.

A pedestrian path at the EBI location was first brought to the fore by newly elected Councilman John Fricke, looking for ways to increase connectivity in the neighborhood in 2005.  The public thought so highly of his idea that they put it in the new General Plan along with a bike/ped path alongside of the Center of ‘Community’ Life that the City Council later eliminated (citing concern over gang rapists that frequently lurk on bike/ped paths).  The staff worked up a condition whereby any business newly locating and conducting a major remodel on the 4550 San Pablo Avenue building in question would be on the hook for building the path as part of a condition of approval.  A few years later, EBI having shown an interest in the site, entered into an agreement with the City of Emeryville to locate their school there and build the public pedestrian path.  EBI was irritated by the requirement to build the path even though they signed on to providing it and they made their grievances known to City Hall.  The Council, feeling their pain, voted to get rid of the path in 2012, presumably striking a blow against gang rapists trolling our bike/ped paths.  But the Council in their wisdom, kept EBI on the hook for the money in lieu of the path, determined to be $525,000.  That money was finally released in May after the Council amended the Conditions of Approval eliminating the path forever on the EBI site.

$525,000 In Lieu Of The Path…Sounds Like A Lot
The $525,000 the Council secured in the EBI negotiation in May has been set aside for the mid-block replacement path.  However it will not cover the added costs the City will incur by relocating it.  A breakdown shows a $1 million deficit at least.  Two existing homes, one on 47th Street and on directly behind it on 45th Street will need to be acquired by the City via eminent domain, torn down and then the path constructed.  A check of prices of homes in the Triangle neighborhood show an average of $700,000 to $800,000 for a total of about $1.5 million.  Combined with demolition and construction costs, the total approaches $2 million leaving a balance of at least $1 million perhaps as much as $1.5 million after the $525,000 credit is factored in.

Red Ink
The numbers show how little the $525,000 the City received will go in building a replacement path. Comparable Triangle Neighborhood home prices are from Zillow and other expenses are approximate:


Buy Houses $1.5 million 
Demolition $50,000
Construct Path $250,000
Total $1.8 million


Residents would be advised to question the City Council about how the public is being served by letting a needed pedestrian connection for the Triangle Neighborhood completed now and funded by agreement with a private party turn into a deal that puts us in the hole to the tune of $1 million +, done by hostile eminent domain destruction of established historic single family homes and completed in the distant future, if at all.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Council Considers 'Fair Work Week/Employee Scheduling' Ordinance

The Emeryville City Council is considering possible legislation supporting regulations regarding employers scheduling of their employees work times at a study session on August 16th.  A new ordinance called the Fair Workweek / Employee Scheduling Ordinance is the intended outcome.  Last spring, the Mayor Dianne Martinez and Council member Ruth Atkin authored an op-ed piece for the San Francisco Chronicle on this subject.   We re-post their op-ed here:  

Needed: A Regional Employee Scheduling Law

For low wage retail and service workers at large corporations, there’s no moving forward.

 Do you know what it’s like working long, erratic hours without knowing day to day what your schedule would be?  Some of us do.  If we haven’t worked in low-wage retail or the service sector, we’re lucky that usually our hard work paid off, and we could advance in our careers. 

For low wage retail and service workers at large corporations, there’s no moving forward. When someone has an “I’ll do anything it takes” attitude, they are not rewarded for their labor, their adaptability or their commitment.  Instead, they are often met with the chaos of unpredictable hours. 

When people don’t have stable full-time or even part-time hours, they can’t budget or schedule basic things like child care, doctor visits, classes, family time or self care. 

Take Cinthia, who works for DB Shoes, one of Emeryville’s numerous corporate retail chains.  She works hard to take care of her family, but struggles with not having reliable hours.  She juggles appointments for her younger brother,classes and work.  When we met her, we asked how much sleep she got the previous night.  She said, “Four hours.”
A recent survey conducted by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy and the Center for Popular Democracy found that a staggering 80 percent of retail workers have fluctuating hours from week to week; 68 percent only receive part-time hours; and more than half experience “clopening” shifts — back to back closing then opening a few hours later.
Two out of 3 workers surveyed want more hours but can’t get them.  Fluctuating hours are considered undesirable by many workers.  There are thousands of working people like Cinthia who are run ragged with erratic work schedules that not only have harmful effects on them personally, but on their families and our communities. 

Our cities are built on everyone coming together to create a thriving place where people can live, work and play.  But when people are not earning enough and have erratic schedules, they don’t have time to invest in our community or local businesses.

San Francisco passed a fair workweek policy, putting the Bay Area at the fair workweek movement’s forefront.  Emeryville and San Jose are also considering similar policies to begin to move the entire region toward a more sustainable work model and ensure that people have both higher wages and regular, predictable hours they can count on. 

Some of us take our routines for granted.  We get up, rush to get everyone out the door, work a single job, come home, eat, go to bed. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.  But for too many working people, that kind of stability is a dream.  It shouldn’t be — and we can do something about it. 

Now that we’ve won a $15 minimum wage across California, we know we need to finish the job and ensure working people have hours they can count on.  A regional fair workweek provides hardworking people with the opportunity to work with stable schedules so they can pay the bills, live healthier lives, and contribute more to our communities. 

Dianne Martinez is the mayor of Emeryville.  Ruth Atkin is a member of the Emeryville City Council.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

City to Take Possession of Ohlone Artifacts From Bay Street Mall

City Council Hopeful Brokers Deal on Purloined Emeryville History

School Board Member and
City Council candidate
Christian Patz (Ed.D)

We have a "shared history"
with our native predecessors.
School Board member and Emeryville City Council candidate Christian Patz announced today he is brokering a deal between the City of Emeryville and the corporate owners of the Bay Street Mall to take possession of certain Ohlone Indian artifacts, dug up when the mall was built, ultimately to offer the objects to living ancestors of the Bay Area tribe.  The mall is built upon the site of the largest Native American shell mound on the West coast and construction workers uncovered many votive and religious objects some up to 2800 years old as well as every day  tools and buried human remains in 1999 when the mall was being built.

Madison Marquette Corporation, the builders of the mall, gave over to the University of California most of the trove of artifacts in 1999 but they kept some for themselves where they have occupied a dusty corner of the corporate leasing office ever since.  It is not known if the corporate seizure of the objects in 1999 was legal.  The City of Emeryville's Redevelopment Agency is the responsible party to the final destruction of the shell mounds but Mr Patz says the pre-Columbian objects should not be in the possession of the Bay Street Mall.

The building of the mall brought much protest from the Bay Area Native American community especially at the time since the site was the burial ground for many generations of their ancestors.  The swapping of a 2800 year old sacred site to a shopping mall has been called an insult and worse to Native Americans.  Protesters still convene on the site every Black Friday before Thanksgiving.

Although Dr Patz says the artifacts should be returned to their rightful owners, he thinks City Hall should at least temporarily display them for the benefit of the people.  "The loss of the shell mounds was tragic" Dr Patz told the Tattler today. "While it cannot be undone, we can empower the few remaining decedents by letting them decide where these treasures end up.  Until then, they should act as a reminder of our shared history" he added.

The Deal brokered by Mr Patz appears to be imminent as Bay Street Mall Manager Jen Nettles has expressed interest in donating the objects to the City and City Manager Carolyn Lehr indicated she would accept them.

Below: The 2800 year old Emeryville Ohlone artifacts in the Manager's leasing office at Bay Street:

Sunday, July 10, 2016

RULE Meeting

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Making our city a great place to live and work!
Please come and meet your progressive neighbors
Next Meeting:  We're back at Doyle St. for Saturday meetings 

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  July 23, 12:00 - 2:00

             -Discussion of By-Laws re:  non-Emeryville residents

            -Candidates for City Council

            -Sherwin-Williams Site:  RULE letter; position in response to the EIR document 

            -Draft of the Donahue Letter on Bike-Boulevards

            -Police use of weapons

See you there!  Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee

Thursday, July 7, 2016

45th & 53rd Streets: Mayor Says Emeryville's Bike Plan Will Not Be Implemented

Mayor: Settled Bike Plan Not Needed,
Will Be Superseded

45th & 53rd Streets Won't Get Bike Plan Treatment 

Emeryville’s Mayor Dianne Martinez announced recently she intends that City Hall’s certified Bicycle Plan be superseded and a new set of extralegal metrics, identified by her and not voted upon by the City Council, take the place of the Plan’s previously adjudicated traffic calming measures for our bike boulevards.  Ms Martinez said in an email that two previously scheduled street improvements not recognized by the Bike Plan will satisfy the requirements to limit the number of vehicles using both streets and that the Bike Plan is unneeded.  The sentiments relayed by the Mayor represent the first publicly professed retrenchment or abandonment of Emeryville’s five year old Bike Plan expressed by a City Council member even though in previous deeds the Council has shown a propensity to disregard the Bike Plan.
Emeryville Mayor Dianne Martinez
We need not be locked in by our
General Plan or our Bike Plan,
we can make stuff up as we go along.

The City of Emeryville has identified 45th Street and 53rd Street as Bike Boulevards and thus subject to a General Plan/Bike Plan mandated program of directing vehicles to other streets known as traffic calming, to assure bicycle safety for these bike priority corridors.  However 45th & 53rd streets have languished since 2012 when the Bike Plan was certified by the Council, the two streets saddled with too many cars to be considered bike boulevards by City Hall and no interest up until now has been shown to rectify the unsafe condition there. 

Regardless of a 2015 traffic study revealing the extent of the unsafe vehicle traffic, an amount of traffic in excess of what’s allowed by the Bike Plan, the City has remained unmoved, doubling down instead on their insistence to continue to ignore the problem.  This has come in the form of a recent email from Mayor Dianne Martinez to the Tattler explaining that the City’s Bike Plan need not be enforced at all for these two streets.
The Mayor says traffic calming is coming to the two streets independently of the Bike Plan; a traffic circle for 53rd Street and a new crosswalk for 45th Street even though these are not identified by the Bike Plan as legitimate traffic calming measures.  Ms Martinez refused to qualify the two unrecognized traffic calming solutions in her email, suggesting she believes traffic calming methods are all the same as far as reducing traffic is concerned.  She answered the Tattler in the email, “In short, the City has indeed initiated traffic calming for these two streets. The City has started working with Pixar to implement a mid-block crosswalk/traffic-calming measure on 45th. On 53rd, the Emeryville Center of Community Life is constructing a traffic circle, which is a calming measure”.

The Bike Plan's regime of traffic calming measures was commissioned by Emeryville in a study by Alta Planning of Berkeley at a cost of $200,000.

The Bike Plan, formulated over two years by Emeryville’s Bike Committee with public input and with help from Alta, provides vehicle traffic metrics for bike boulevards, taking pains to note too many cars on a bike boulevard is unsafe.  The Plan gives a detailed prescription for what to do if too many cars are using the boulevard; a specific suite of traffic calming measures with increasing intensity (Levels 1-5) is the remedy for an excess amount of traffic. 
Mayor Martinez is disregarding the democratically (and professionally) agreed upon process laid out by our Bike Plan stating other measures, not included in the Plan that happen to be forthcoming on the two streets that she herself has identified as traffic calming, are all that is needed. 

Vice Mayor Scott Donahue, who ran as a slate mate with Ms Martinez and as an advocate for bicycles specifically, refused to comment regarding the Mayor’s would be new City policy for 45th & 53rd Streets.

The traffic counts revealing the excess traffic for bike boulvards in the area, including the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, were conducted in 2015 as a condition of the draft environmental documents for the Sherwin Williams development project.  The Bike Plan requires the City to conduct its own traffic counts to monitor its bike boulevards but none have been conducted so far.  The Tattler revealed in 2015 through a Public Records Request of internal documents at City Hall that the Public Works Director Maurice Kaufman was attempting to hide the traffic study requirements from the newly hired City Manager Carolyn Lehr.  This year the City finally has funded money to conduct the required traffic counts beginning in 2018, presumably as a result of the Tattler investigation.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Maz Project Burns: "Biggest Fire in Decades"

At 2:45 AM today Alameda County Fire Department received the call; the Maz housing project at 39th Street and San Pablo Avenue was in flames.  The fire, fueled by the bare wood studs of the 6 story project still under construction, quickly turned into a six alarm conflagration that was still burning at 9:00 this morning.  One unnamed firefighter called it the biggest fire in decades for Emeryville.  No injuries have been reported at what is being designated as a crime scene.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Staff Now Says 'Back-Up Beepers Can't Be Disabled'- Who Could Have Known?

Back-Up Beepers at ECCL Morph From 
'Deal Breaker' to 'No Big Deal'

As it turns out, back-up beepers on heavy construction equipment can't be silenced to satisfy noise ordinance restrictions we found out at the June 21st City Council meeting.  Who could have known that?  Emeryville's city staff?  Could they have known?  Perhaps Turner Construction, were they in any position to know?  How about John Baker, our ECCL construction consultant representative, is this something we could expect him to know?   The answer is apparently no one could have known, regardless of all the public money being doled out to know this kind of thing.

The thing is Cal/OSHA doesn't permit back-up beepers to be disabled on construction equipment.  But nobody paid to know that in Emeryville knew that.  Perhaps they're not paid enough.

The Emeryville City Council is concerned about all the construction delays at the Center of 'Community' Life.  They're so concerned that they granted Turner Construction a waiver of our Noise Ordinance so they can work on Saturdays starting in April.  Construction however is loud and neighbors have a reasonable expectation of quiet least that's what City Hall said when the City Council passed our Noise Ordinance.
But not to worry, the new progressive City Council majority doesn't grant waivers willy nilly to developers like the previous Council did.  So this time they assured neighbors their reasonable expectations of quiet weekends will be taken seriously and so the Council required Turner to disable the loud back-up beepers on the heavy equipment being used.  All parties, the staff, Turner Construction and John Baker our construction consultant agreed this was the reasonable thing to do and so a contract disabling the back-up beepers was signed.

Oops!  Strike that!  The loud back-up beepers, a deal breaker at the April 5th Council meeting when the waiver was granted have now become no big deal they say.  By last Tuesday's meeting, concern over beepers had all changed.  Now Turner can beep away says our City Council and they still get their waiver.  What happened?  The City Council made no attempt to quantify the noise from back-up beepers, formerly determined by them to be excessive, citing instead the need to finish the ECCL project.

City Hall now holds that residents won't be told what constitutes a reasonable expectation of quiet weekends, however with regard to its imbroglio over back-up beepers at the Center of 'Community' Life, Councilwoman Jac Asher spoke for her colleagues, shifting blame to John Baker, our Turner Construction go-between working under contract ($1.2 million) with the City.

Ms Asher put it bluntly to Mr Baker, "Our staff takes the blame for being unaware of the OSHA regulations.  What I don't understand is why were you not aware of the OSHA regulations?  Isn't construction and management of construction projects what you do and what you're being paid for?"

John Baker's haltingly staccato response, unclear in its presentation, makes clear what's going on between the City of Emeryville, Turner Construction and Mr Baker himself as the ECCL construction struggles across the scheduled August finish line.  By way of an answer to Ms Asher's charge, he told the Council, "What, what occurred is when we, we started doing the Saturday work, there was some equipment that when, when, when, uh, Turner went to disable the back-up beepers, uh...we were not aware."
John Baker, Emeryville's Construction Consultant for ECCL
On the Job

"What, what... uh when, when, when, uh... we
were not aware" = $1.2 million

Friday, June 17, 2016

RULE Meeting