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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Emeryville: A Great Place to Work, but I Wouldn't Want to Live There

What is it about Emeryville that makes its biggest boosters run for the hills when the sun goes down?

Many of those steering Emeryville's public policy, shaping its urban design and singing its praises loudest, live elsewhere. A telling detail, as it were. At the same time, decisions regularly bend to fit the desires of these same out-of-towners. From the Fire Department to the Police Department to City Hall, virtually no one on the payroll actually lives here.

It's not a question of money. Most officials are paid incomes comfortably into the six figures. City Manager Pat O'Keeffe can afford to, but he must not think Emeryville is the kind of town he wants to live he doesn't. Likewise Planning Director Charlie Bryant and City Attorney Michael Biddle, they don't either. City Engineer and Public Works Director Maurice Kaufman likewise makes his home elsewhere. City Clerk Karen Hemphill lives somewhere close by and Finance Director Edmond Suen thinks Emeryville is a great place to live; just not for him.

The pattern isn't limited to the public sphere. Emeryville's biggest boosters, the Chamber of Commerce, may constantly lecture residents about the good of unfettered development, but living in the midst of it isn't their cup of tea. Chamber CEO Bob Canter loves Emeryville so much, he lives in Martinez. The Chamber's Vice Chairman, Mason Myers, may wax poetic about a magic transformation from post-industrial slum to the Bay Area's best place to live, but to reach him at home, you must first dial 1 (415), just like Ken Bukowski.

Is this a case of listen to what we say, not what we do? Maybe the fact that these people are making a handsome living off of the transformation of Emeryville is the real driving force. Follow the money, as it were. Perhaps what is most illustrative is that their vision for Emeryville is so great, even they don't want a part of it.


  1. It is totally reasonable an normal for city employees to live in other places. In fact, under state ethics rules some employees (planners, for example) may not work on projects within 300 feet of property they own. In a small city like Emeryville, this makes it very difficult for certain employees to live in the same city they work for.

    BTW, Charlie Bryant happens to live so close to City Hall that he rides his bike to work.

    You also don't mention that the Economic Development Coordinator lives in the City.

  2. I totally agree with the Anonymous poster. How dare these local rubes challenge their out of town overlords?
    People in a small town like Emeryville are obviously too dumb to govern themselves, they need people from Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco to tell them what to do and how to think. These bloggers are idiots.

  3. I agree with Anonymous, in that I happen to like people from Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco. Just because they don't live in Emeryville doesn't mean they are unfit in any way.

  4. Oh, I meant to say that you didn't mention that the Economic Development Coordinator lives in Emeryville. That's why I wrote City with a capital 'C,' but I see how that could be misinterpreted as meaning San Francisco.