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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bay Street Ready To Receive More Manna From City Hall

Citizen's Group Moves To Stop Another Give-A-Way To
Mall Developer

A local citizen's group will attempt to scupper plans by city officials to grant another extension to an East Coast developer still trying to figure out what to do with a large chunk of prime Emeryville land.
If granted in September as expected, it would mark the sixth annual "exclusive negotiating" deal that city officials have doled out to Washington D.C.-based mall developer, Madison Marquette.
The property in question, dubbed 'Site-B' by the city, sits between the developer's existing Bay Street mall and Powell Street.
Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE), has said enough is enough. The group contends that the existing mall is geared to regional shoppers and provides little for local residents.

If it grants the extension, city officials would be barred from considering any plan not submitted by Madison Marquette. With the economy still faltering, its possible, if not likely, that the company would have a difficult time assembling the multi-million dollar building loans needed to finance a major project. Madison Marquette has indicated this is in fact happening as they have still not presented any specific proposal for the site.

RULE representative Ruth Major says Emeryville deserves a better option than what Bay Street has delivered. She noted "Continuing to support Madison Marquette with yet another extension is ridiculous". She added, "The original agreement, five years ago, gave them 60 days to submit a preliminary plan for the site. I have yet to see it, it may be out there but it is certainly not transparent if it is. My understanding is that Madison Marquette still did not have a plan, as of 2009 when the fifth extension was granted".

Ms Major pointed out that the council has already given more than $50 million in direct subsidy to the developer so far and granting six years of exclusive developing rights amounts to a further taxpayer subsidy for Madison Marquette by locking out tax receipts from a valuable piece of property.

Last year, when the city council bestowed a fifth extension, RULE organized a City Hall rally demanding officials reopen the vacant parcel hoping another developer might present a proposal better meeting residents' needs. In response, other developers have shown interest in developing the site with plans considered 'more resident friendly,' notably Federal Development LLC. That company, however, has been rebuffed by the council in favor of Madison Marquette.

The idea of extending the benefit of exclusive rights to Madison Marquette an unprecedented sixth time drew criticism from Council member Jennifer West, "The City Council needs to listen more to the residents. After five extensions of the contract, the onus is on them [Madison Marquette] to convince the community that their [non]plan is viable and that it will directly and substantively benefit the residents" she said.

As a corollary, citizens have also complained that the existing mall has become a magnet for criminals in the East Bay and crime has been steadily increasing there. Chief of Police Ken James agrees and he claims that Bay Street is the single largest reason that the Emeryville Police Department has racked up so much overtime pay.


  1. If the Redevelopment Agency (it's not the Council that takes this action) doesn't renew the exclusive negotiating agreement then taxpayers would lose the $50 million we already spent. That's not a very good use of our money. Also we do better to wait until the economy improves. I work in the development industry and the VERY few projects which are being developed today are sh--ty compared with those developed a few years ago. The unfortunate reality is that Emeryville won't see any projects for a while that are the quality that we saw a few years ago :(

  2. I'm as skeptical of Madison Marquette's plans for"Site B" as the Tattler, and as appalled by the millions that have been handed them for their various projects. I doubt they can start work on anything during one more year's extension, in our present economy, but after that there needs to be a citizen rebellion at City Hall, a demanding that any more project
    offers on that prime site be opened up to
    other builders, some of which might actually show vision and imagination.

    Joe Cohen

  3. Note To Readers:
    The first commenter is incorrect about "losing" the $50 million. This is money that was granted to Madison Marquette for Bay Street Site A, the part that was constructed years ago. If the city were to not renew another year of exclusive developing rights to Madison Marquette, the existing mall would continue as it is.

    This comment shows the level of desperation to continue business as usual in Emeryville in my opinion. Business as usual being government largess going to only certain well connected developers.

    A smarter way to develop is to open up the process to ALL developers and see what we get. After all, what were ultimately going for is creating a livable town, not creating a pro (specific) developer ideologically driven City Hall.

  4. To set the record straight (re commenter #1) - the Redevelopment Agency IS in fact the City Council. It's one and the same. And that should be made clear to the residents of Emeryville at every opportunity.

  5. No, that is incorrect. Let's really set the record straight. The Redevelopment Agency is made up of the same 5 people as the City Council. However, they are very different entities with separate budgets and very different functions. In most small and medium-sized cities the two bodies are made up of the same people--it's more efficient that way. Things become fractured when the two bodies are different. That said, we should be clear when stating which body is taking an action because their functions are so different.

  6. Before a comment can be posted on these issues, one has to select a "profile" and it's most effective and convenient to select "anonymous."
    Who can recall, say, a Google Account number?
    It would be well if people who select"anonymous"
    put their names at the end of their remarks, to
    affirm they don't see our community as a police state where they have to fear repercussions for speaking openly. If Big Brother/Sister are watching, then fine, let them watch; the more the merrier.

    Joe Cohen

  7. Let's face it: the City Council and the Redevelopment Agency are the same thing. The same five people means the same culture.

  8. The problem is no one is paying attention to how much money is being spent through the redevelopment agency (RA), and who ultimately pays the bill--the residents. The R A (2 members of the council and staff, remember Pat O'Keefe was the manager of all of this until his promotion)is paid for by you the citizens of Emeryville. We pay the interest on the bonds, some from general funds, (I believe it is $14,000,000 this year from general funds) and we divert monies from the state through this system. Who is making money from all this: bankers, lawyers, developers, loan agents... So, dear residents pay attention.