Council Does Mall Developer's Bidding Two More Years
Tonight the Emeryville city council granted Bay Street Mall developer Madison Marquette another two years exclusive development rights to the empty land north of the mall at a contentious council meeting. Added to the six years already granted, the developer will enjoy eight years of exclusive rights. The council voted 4-1 with Jennifer West dissenting. More than 20 residents spoke urging the council to open up the valuable land for all developers to make proposals.
The council refused to consider requiring a fee to hold the land for the developer to partially offset the loss in revenue the city has experienced by the fallow land.
The majority of the contention centered on how a better project could be had were competition to be allowed but Council member Ruth Atkin dismissed any such talk, "competition happened in 2004" Ms Atkin sniffed, referring to the first year the council selected Madison Marquette for exclusive development rights. Council member West spoke in favor of opening up the process to "new possibilities, new thinking" but was rebuffed by her colleagues.
Council member Ken Bukowski dared residents to vote him out of office if they didn't like his support for extending the exclusive rights to Madison Marquette, "You can vote us [the council] out" he taunted.
But the most fire came from Mayor Nora Davis. The mayor took umbrage with the residents that spoke out against the ongoing special favors the city keeps granting Madison Marquette, and she said such talk "undermines people's confidence in the representative elected officials" raising the specter of wholesale people power for Emeryville. She reprimanded residents that the "original concept" of the Bay Street mall was to have "one large mall" extending all the way to Powell Street. "We have to get serious" she said as a warning to those who would ask for a better use of the land, possibly by a different developer.
The residents made much reference to establishing a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) with the developer of the site. A CBA is a legal agreement between residents and a developer and it is set up to assure a project enhances a community. Mayor Davis expressed a surprising ignorance of the idea of a CBA stating it isn't needed since the Bay Street mall already benefits the community by "strengthening the tax base". This is the same recycled rejoinder that has been offered by city officials each year the council extends Madison Marquette's exclusive developing rights. "It's the same argument every year; what disrespect" said one dejected resident shuffling out of City Hall after the 4-1 vote.