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Monday, November 29, 2010

'Bay Citizen' Tracks Bay Street Mall Expansion

Re-printed from today's Bay Citizen:

Emeryville Residents to Challenge Development Plan

In business-friendly city, group wants community benefits and open bidding on new project

By ZUSHA ELINSON on November 29, 2010 - 4:45 p.m. PST 

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Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen
Developer Madison Marquette wants to build on this parcel of land just north of the Bay Street mall
Emeryville is known for Best Buy, Ikea and the Bay Street shopping mall — not so much for organized political dissent.
But next week, a group of residents will challenge plans to build a hotel and a Macy’s on an empty lot adjacent to the outdoor mall that brings shoppers from around the Bay Area to the 1.2-square-mile city.
The group, which calls itself Residents United for a Livable Emeryville, or RULE, wants developer Madison Marquette to pay for community benefits such as affordable housing, parks and living-wage jobs.
In San Francisco and Oakland, developers often pony up. Homebuilder Lennar, which is embarking on a 10,000-home project in San Francisco’s Bayview district, agreed to a community benefits package including job training and affordable housing that is worth $1 billion.
But in Emeryville, where two decades of rapid development have transformed an industrial wasteland into a retail center to the envy of many surrounding cities, there has never been such an agreement.
“There’s an attitude in Emeryville of development and business at all costs that’s really transformed the town in a short period of time,” said Jennifer West, a City Council member who ran successfully as a member of RULE in the last election.
“We feel it's time to slow it down and be a little bit more careful about what we do,” she said.
But West isn’t necessarily in the majority on the five-member City Council. The others say that developers like Madison Marquette are already doing a lot for the city just by building and bringing in tax revenue.
“If you want a city and [you want to] be able to pay your bills, you need a commercial section of town,” said Ken Bukowski, who’s been on the City Council for a quarter of a century. “A lot of these folks don't see the benefit the business community brings.”
On Dec. 7, Madison Marquette — which developed the Bay Street mall — will be asking the city to extend its exclusive negotiating rights to develop a 5-acre parcel of land just to the north. Although no plans are final, one scenario envisions a Macy’s as a bookend to the existing mall along with space for a hotel.
The down economy makes the extension necessary, according to Eric Hohmann, a managing director for Madison Marquette.
“The city owns one of the best commercial properties in the entire East Bay, and interest is strong,” Hohmann said. “It’s just that we need more time to strike a deal.”
Madison Marquette has promised the city that “Macy’s is interested in opening a store at the Bay Street Site B,” but offers no other details or assurances. 
In an e-mail, Macy’s spokesman Jim Sluzewski said the company doesn’t disclose “where we are or are not looking for new store locations,” adding that “as of this time, we have no announced plans for any future new Macy's stores.”
The city’s redevelopment agency has spent $30 million to clean up contamination from the site, where the Sherwin-Williams paint company and Union Oil once made their homes, said Patrick O’Keefe, Emeryville’s city manager. The city is also considering building a parking garage at a cost of $17 million as part of the deal. 
“To bring in a large anchor tenant who doesn't and can’t pay the rent of small shops does require this investment from the city to make it happen, but the city gets financial benefits in terms of revenues,” said Hohmann of Madison Marquette.
Members of RULE — a group of artists, professionals and longtime residents that formed a few years back — say it’s precisely because of the $47 million subsidy that Madison Marquette should be paying for community benefits. Faye Prince, an Emeryville resident for decades and a RULE member, said Emeryville doesn’t have to give away as much to developers as it used to.
“Umpteen years ago when you had to walk across the railroad tracks and there was nothing here, sure,” said Prince. “But that’s old news.”
RULE has also suggested that the city open up the project to other bidders who might be more open to the group's demands.
Madison Marquette is looking to the City Council to give the word on community benefits. And if council member Ruth Atkin has her way, the word will be no, at least for this project. 
“The goals of RULE and the goals of the city are not contrary to each other,” said Atkin. “The question is, they think they’re going to get more by pursuing another approach, and I’m skeptical.”
Atkin said that businesses benefit Emeryville — for example, the free Emery Go Round transportation service is paid for by businesses, she said.
Part of the battle with Madison Marquette is also over labor, with unions who are working with RULE looking for concessions from the developer and eventual hotel owner.
The battle over Madison Marquette comes on the heels of Emeryville's rejection of plans for an Ikea expansion after a neigborhood group voiced its concerns.
“There is a shift taking place in Emeryville,” said West, the council member.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Family Friendly Housing In Emeryville: No Longer An Opinion

November 2nd, We Set Our New Course
Now We Will Remake Emeryville 

News Analysis / Opinion
The voters spoke on November 2nd and what they said will reverberate for generations to come.  The voters said in a loud and very clear voice; they expect Emeryville to be recast.  The game changing  Measure J vote, passed by some 72% of voters, mandates that our town will be completely remade with a whole new guiding vision.  Emeryville will morph from the existing auto dependant loft & condo commuter burg filled with single or childless couple professionals and Cal Berkeley students into a new city brimming with young families living in a new type of housing scarcely recognizable by current standards.
Emeryville residents of the future

Just how we're going to get there is unclear but get there we must since residents are now committed to a nearly $400 million new public school rebuild that requires attracting a minimum of 700 new Emeryville students, according to the school district.  Critics of Measure J , including the Tattler, called attention to this glaring problem of a lack of existing family friendly housing in the run up to the November 2nd election while proponents of the measure devoted no time to explaining how the lack of housing problem would be resolved but residents threw caution to the wind and voted to move forward regardless.

Epic in it's scope, Measure J represented a vote of NO to the status quo and YES to a complete make-over for the town.  Now, it's up to the city council to deliver family housing; lots of it and really fast, to support the new school and make sure the voters will is assuaged.  We mustn't fool ourselves; this would not be easy in the best of times let alone during the current economic morass.

Nevertheless, Measure J will usher in a whole new development paradigm for our town and our aging council members must radically change to meet the new demands; a difficult task given their specific personalities and their overall conservative nature.  Now, city leaders must actively and aggressively seek out new housing options.  The old way, waiting for developers themselves to make development proposals won't deliver the family housing that we need.

Not Open For Interpretation
Up until recently in Emeryville, the phrase 'family friendly housing' has been an imprecise term, even as many sectors have clamored for it.  It's been one of those things that everybody seems to want and yet we still can't seem to get.  The city council members have been liberally using the term of late and developers have noticed the change in rhetoric emanating from the council dais and they have provided assurance to the decision makers that any housing proposals they champion can be considered family friendly.  Some decision makers have gone out of their way to let everyone know that they know just what this new type of housing is.
Meet your new neighbors
Planning Commissioner Frank Flores, for one chastised the council in a sharply worded November 18th letter for even discussing whether a development proposal under consideration was family friendly and whether to require appropriate adjustments from the developer.  Mr Flores, who works for the developer in question, told the council members the loft/condo housing development proposal at 3900 Adeline Street is already in fact family friendly and no improvements need be made on that account.  Mr Flores would have us believe what constitutes family friendly housing is a matter of personal opinion and the developers for their part no doubt would like us to leave it at that.
Unfortunately now in Emeryville, we don't have that freedom anymore.  We must bring families to Emeryville to support the voter approved new school investment and families won't listen to Mr Flores or developers or even the council for that matter; they'll decide for themselves what constitutes family friendly housing and unlike the developers, their decisions will be based on if they actually feel comfortable living there as a family with their children.  Hubris from developers or the council and their sycophants will be exposed immediately by actual families in the marketplace.

Going Backwards
Up til now,  Emeryville has been going backwards; we've actually been losing families over the last twenty years even as our population has risen dramatically.  The lack of family housing has exacerbated the situation.  Council member Ruth Atkin recently complained developers, left to their own devices, have only provided eight three bedroom units in the last ten years in Emeryville.  Ms Atkin is correct; we can't afford to go down this path anymore.

Quaint old Emeryville; so very 2010
Against this bleak backdrop, the city has accepted the offer of local planning firm MIG & Associates to define what exactly constitutes family friendly housing in an urban context with a power point presentation made expressly for Emeryville.  This firm has shopped their presentation around town, and so far they've made their presentation to the School Board, the Housing Commission and the City Council.

Luckily for us, MIG has agreed to help us with our lack of family friendly housing.  We no longer need to guess about what it takes to bring families to Emeryville; no longer do we need to listen to opinions from those with hidden agendas to maximize profits for shareholders who might try to fool us.  No longer do we need to listen to ideologues that would help those seeking to maximize profits claiming to want to help build family housing and all the while working to subvert that effort.  Now we have MIG & Associates, a real independent arbiter that is a professional in the field and highly respected among their peers.
You won't see many of these anymore
Bay Street Site Up For Grabs
Given the limited geography of Emeryville and the pressing timeline, every piece of land freed up for possible redevelopment must now be put into play toward the goal of bringing in the 700 new students.  The first on the docket is the large piece of empty land along Shellmound Street directly to the north of the Bay Street mall and coveted by Bay Street developer Madison Marquette.  This land has sat idle for five years, waiting for Madison Marquette to make up their minds if they really want to do a Bay Street mall expansion.  The council has granted the developer exclusive rights to this valuable piece of Emeryville real estate for expanding the shopping mall five years running.
Now the council must expand their thinking and figure a way to build family friendly housing on the site, even if Madison Marquette demurs.



This is what the new Emeryville will look like
Indeed, the council must now be thinking in terms of building family friendly housing on every piece of land until we bring the 700 new students to the district.  Every development proposal must now be considered a contested site.  The past high profit margins from lofts and one bedroom condos developers have enjoyed in Emeryville are at an end.  Now, the profits will be much slimmer.  The council will have to learn how to say NO to developers as they make their claims that family housing developments "won't pencil out", like they always do.  They'll have to hold fast when the developers threaten to leave Emeryville if they don't get everything they want, like they always do.  The council will have to learn to bring a new kind of development to Emeryville.  These old dog council members are going to have to learn some new tricks.  The bonds proscribed for Measure J are being prepared for sale right now and the clock is ticking.  We need family friendly housing now in Emeryville.

Emeryville will be lousy with these
MIG is here:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No Family Friendly Housing For 3900 Adeline Site

Measure J School Rebuild Left In Lurch
Council Says 'NO' To Family Housing,
NO To Measure J

After tirelessly campaigning for Measure J, the November 2nd school bond vote, the city council voted a big NO Tuesday night to providing support  for the new school by denying family housing.  The 3-2 vote was the first 'post J' test of the council's new focus on providing family friendly housing in Emeryville's drive to increase enrollment by more than 700 kids.   The proposed loft development at 3900 Adeline Street was the site of the contested council vote.

The site was approved for a new loft development by the council last year after they OK'ed the tear down of the existing red brick historic structure there.

The developer subsequently asked the city for a two year extension on the contract to start demolition for the loft project and the council entered into a discussion Tuesday of whether to leverage the extension request by asking for more family appropriate housing at the site.

What counts as family housing in Emeryville
The developer, Oakland based Madison Park corporation, responded to the council's request to accommodate families by committing to change 20 of the planned studio apartments to one bedroom units.  The project would go from 41 studio units to 21 and one bedroom units would be bumped up by 20; from 36 to 56.

Council member Jennifer West asked the developer if the intent was to increase the building's mass to account for the 20 larger units and she was informed that the proposed building would remain the same size but the one bedroom units would be small, the same size as the former studio units.  After acknowledging that Emeryville had changed and now the school district needed support in the form of family friendly housing, Mayor Nora Davis volunteered that these hard bargained units would be acceptable for single parent/one child families.  Countering, Ms West said the units could hardly be called "family friendly".

The vote for asking the developer to provide real family housing in exchange for the two year construction extension was Davis, Bukowski, Brinkman- NO; and West, Atkin- YES.

Readers may wish to read more about the demolition of the historic building by going to the November 12 Tattler story.

The school project, passed by Emeryville voters will be a nearly $400 million new facility after financing and requires an additional 700+ Emeryville students to make the whole thing viable according to the school district.  In the last twenty years, Emeryville's student population has actually decreased owing to the lack of family housing in town compelling some residents to advocate for turning the student decline around to give the new school a chance at success by building family friendly housing.  The city council has recently announced a new vision for the city that includes families but so far it's amounted to nothing other than words, adding not a single family housing unit.

Oakland-Emeryville Parents Fight Cell Towers

Reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Oakland-Emeryville parents fight cell towers





Julia Dwyer chats on her cell phone after picking up her daughter, Ella Thompson, 5, from school in Oakland. Parents want to block the installation of cellular antennas on the building (left) owned by Verizon.

Parents at two elementary schools along the Oakland-Emeryville border knew the odds were against them in a battle to keep cellular antennas off a building a few hundred feet from their children's classrooms.
But worried about potential health risks, they staged rallies, contacted elected officials and ponied up the $1,000 cost to appeal the application.
And they lost.
Verizon Wireless got the go-ahead from both Oakland and Emeryville officials to install nine panel antennas and two GPS antennas early next year on the boarded-up, two-story brick building across from the North Oakland Community Charter School and Anna Yates Elementary. The private property straddles the boundary line between the two cities.
The parents have two options left. On Friday, they will appeal to Verizon's "corporate conscience" with a march from the schools to the wireless provider's local retail store, said Jen Schradie, whose two children attend the charter school.

Health study

They also will seek to arm themselves with science, conducting their own health study - a costly, time-consuming endeavor, but one that could provide the proof they say they need to stop such placements in the future.
"It's going to be a long-term process, but we're definitely going to be involved in conducting the study," said Schradie, a sociology doctoral student at UC Berkeley. "We're not willing to sit back and cross our fingers."
The parents argue that Verizon has good coverage in the area and other potential cell sites farther from the schools.
Similar battles over cell towers are raging in communities across the state and country - with similar results. Federal regulations bar communities from considering health concerns in the approval process for towers and antennas, because current rules limit emission levels to what scientists believe are safe.
Verizon followed all local, state and federal guidelines in the project, as it always does, said spokeswoman Heidi Flato.
With the exponential increase in demand for cellular service, including Internet access, the new equipment has to go somewhere.
"We want our cell phone connection, but we don't want the towers," Flato said.
Research does not show a link between radio frequency waves and danger to people.
According to the American Cancer Society, "The amount of exposure from living near a cell phone tower is typically many times lower than the exposure from using a cell phone."
In addition, the radiofrequency waves disperse quickly, often from heights that dramatically decrease exposure to people.
Even so, the Federal Communications Commission and the President's Cancer Panel have called for more research.

Parents worry

Despite assurances from the federal government, wireless service providers and researchers who say the emissions from the antennas are nothing to be concerned about, the parents continue to worry.
At one time, tobacco was believed to be perfectly safe, the parents noted. The same was said about asbestos and DDT, until additional research proved differently.
Mariah Landers isn't willing to be the canary in the coal mine - again.
The teacher at North Oakland Community Charter lived in Merced's Beachwood neighborhood growing up. Only within the past two years did she learn that the cancer-causing chemical chromium 6 leeched into the groundwater there, despite assurances from corporate executives that everything was fine.
Many of her neighbors have died of cancer or are fighting the disease. A lawsuit is pending.

'We don't know'

"History has shown me that I can't trust" those assurances, she said. "We just don't know how things can affect our bodies. Our bodies are so fragile. We don't know everything."
Elected officials say they would like more control, creating restrictions on antennas or towers, specifically near schools.
"I think local communities should have some say about this," said Jennifer West, an Emeryville City Council member and a parent at the charter school.
It's not just a NIMBY thing, she said, noting that there are about more than 700 antennas and cell towers within 4 miles of the schools.
"I just think it's not a wise place to put additional electromagnetic equipment," she. "We can't prove that right now. But if it's really not necessary, why do harm when you're not sure."
E-mail Jill Tucker at jtucker@sfchronicle.com.


Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/11/16/BAPT1GCUTR.DTL#ixzz15YXoJJun

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It Takes a Director Of Economic Development To See It

Beauty Only A Director Of Economic Development Can See

News Analysis
Take a look at the Taj Mahal.  For generations it has been adored as a beautiful thing.  Across the world, people have recognized it's sublime universal beauty.  If it were located in Emeryville, it might be considered beautiful but then again it might not; it all depends on if the Director of Economic Development thought it was.  In Emeryville, it is one Helen Bean, said Director that has final say on a building's relative visual aesthetic merits; an impressive feat for someone with no visual aesthetic or even architectural training.

Ms Bean provided her non-expert yet authoritarian opinion about the proposed Bay Street Mall expansion at a study session on November 2nd wherein she told the council that the existing Bay Street mall is beautiful and the expansion would also be beautiful.  This opinion about the beauty of the mall was presented as a required finding of fact for purposes of extending an exclusive negotiating right for the mall developer Madison Marquette.  It's a good thing for Madison Marquette because had the economic director found the proposed mall expansion aesthetically ugly then the required visual guidelines mandated for that part of Emeryville would have been violated and presumably the exclusive negotiating rights would not have been issued to Madison Marquette.

Beauty is a requirement and apparently the Bay Street mall's got it.

Never mind that architects and artists can objectify beauty when measured against the 2000 year old western aesthetic canon.  Never mind that architectural critics have roundly lambasted the Bay Street mall, it's the random opinion of a particular economic developer that counts for identifying architectural merit in Emeryville.

She may not know much about art but Economic Development Director Bean knows what she likes and what she likes is the Bay Street mall and that's good enough to grant mall developer Madison Marquette another two years of exclusive rights to a premier Emeryville commercial property.  Everyone else that has opinions on the Bay Street mall's relative beauty or lack thereof may keep their opinions to themselves.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Tale Of Two J's

Two Measures Eerily Similar
Measure J? It's Deja Vu 
All Over Again

News Analysis
Quick: what do 1991 and 2010 in Emeryville have in common?
Answer: they where both election years that featured a highly contentious Measure J.

Perhaps it may be surprising to some new Emeryville residents but the Measure J we just voted on in November has a twin, at least in name, dating back to 1991.

Both campaigns shared much more than the title Measure J; both vastly outspent the opposition and used deception in the campaign.  Both had a phony grassroots genesis and both were funded in a subterranean manner by corporate concerns interested in profit maximizing posing as a bottom up genuine citizen originated process.

Measure J in 1991 was forwarded by an election committee called "Citizens For An Emeryville Grocery Store" and was advocating for building the East Bay Bridge mall (aka the Home Depot mall).  The idea of the measure was to disallow Emeryville's Planning Commission to independently decide about whether to approve the mall and instead have the decision made by a new government entity set up expressly for this, the  so called 'Joint Planning Authority' (JPA); a mix between some of our Planning Commissioners and some of Oakland's Planning Commissioners.  This was justified since a little of the land for the mall was in Oakland.  The Emeryville Planning Commissioners selected for the JPA would be hand picked by Mayor Nora Davis, a stanch supporter of Measure J.  She gave herself the capacity to select only those commissioners who wanted to approve the proposed mall, filtering out the independent dissenters, which constituted the majority.

The whole Measure J election came about because the Emeryville Planning Commission majority had earlier voted against the mall and Ms Davis and the majority of her colleagues on the council needed a way to go around our Planning Commission's vote of no confidence in the proposed mall.

The NO on J committee was called 'Residents For An Independent Emeryville'.

The grocery store the YES on J side was clamoring for turned out to be the Pak 'N Save now located in the East Bay Bridge center at 40th Street and San Pablo Avenue.

Catellus, a Denver based development corporation morphed out of the Santa Fe Railway reality company, was the developer that owned the land and that wanted to build the mall.

Highlights of the Measure J campaign, 1991 style:
  • Citizens For An Emeryville Grocery Store had donations totalling more than $140,000, 100% of which came from Catellus Development Corporation.
  • A vast campaign of color brochures and phone banking was featured.  The phone banking featured 'push polling' and a last minute negative campaign that called the other side "racist" because they were trying to deny black people a grocery store.
  • The No on J side, Residents for an Independent Emeryville raised about $7000, all from Emeryville residents and mostly in $10 to $20 donations.
  • The YES on J side had paid staffers but the NO on J was all Emeryville resident volunteers.
  • Emeryville power broker and Pete Wilson (R) for Governor donor, John Gooding worked for both YES on J committees ('91&'10).
  • The final vote was 50.8% YES to 49.2% NO.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rationality Mysteriously Missing From Public Policy

Wanted: Rational Public Policy For Emeryville

Opinion
Emeryville's high school leaves much to be desired and we're good with bold, even out-of-the-box policy to correct the morass there but public policy should be transparent and above all rational; both missing in the November 2nd fix offered voters.  What we got instead was a transmogrify of certain aging politician's ambition into a conspicuously embellished grand public edifice with a bronze plaque, glorifying their names chiseled therein for the ages.

None of this was directly apparent of course.  But what else are we to make of a project sold to the voters as a place for Emeryville's kids when it demonstrably will be for Oakland's kids?  The Tattler has inveighed against some resident's attempts to demonize Oakland children; after all a child is a child, all need quality education and they rightfully don't care if they live on the other side of some invisible political border.  However, Emeryville voters should have been told the truth that there is no way to get the 700+ new Emeryville children promised by Measure J, needed for the school to function properly and that the new school they voted to build is really for Oakland's children.

The Tattler has shown how both politically and even geographically, there is no way for Emeryville to provide family friendly housing for the 700 children in the few years allotted, if ever.  Further, the extraordinarily high cost of the money for the project, a shocking 1:4 ratio of brick and mortar school to Wall Street fat cat payout gives one pause, especially since the project was being shamelessly touted by budget hawk council member Nora Davis and her infamously tight purse strings, now transformed into drunken sailor's pockets by this project.

This is the kind of public policy a town gets when there is no newspaper providing for real accountability and politicians are re-elected over and over again, decade after decade passing from spry middle age into their dotage, still at the helm.  At this point what they see is a large bronze plaque, front and center on a fabulous new public building, their names forever associated with governmental philanthropic largess flowing from their good graces and trickling down to future generations.

Unfortunately, this project has been promulgated with a scorched earth polity from the beginning, even still ultimately, a large conspicuous bronze plaque may be in order for the new school when it's completed but rational public policy for Emeryville should not be left in tatters to get from where we were to the day when the bronze plaque is affixed.  At least Emeryville voters should have been told what they were really voting for, then maybe those council members could have engaged in the real politicking necessary to fairly deliver such a large public project.  Had they done so, they would have properly earned their bronze plaque.

Friday, November 12, 2010

2nd Chance For 3900 Adeline Street

First Test Of New Paradigm Of Family Friendly Housing
Loft Developer Reneges On Housing Contract,

Emeryville Gets 2nd Bite 
At The Apple

The bad economy has granted Emeryville a rare second chance to correct a past mistake and support our new voter approved school rebuild project by making a place for families instead of another loft/condo project.  The city received notice from the development firm Madison Park that they want to renegotiate their contract to tear down an architecturally significant and historically significant building at 3900 Adeline Street in order to build a new loft/condo building and the council will decide the matter at the November 16th meeting at City Hall.
The Oakland based firm Madison Park says it wants to delay work on the approved demolition and rebuilding for a year and is asking the city to keep open all the rights it secured in January 2009 when the council voted OK to the development proposal.

A lot has happened in this town since the council granted approval for 3900 Adeline and Council member Jennifer West told the Tattler she expects the city to consider changing the terms of the contract if possible, to reconfigure the development to make it family friendly to support the $95 million school rebuild bond the voters just passed.  "We need to look at this in light of the need to bring more children to the [school] district" Ms West said.  The developer, Madison Park would be free to reject the new terms and simply begin work as previously agreed.

The Tattler has called on the city to move with all speed to deliver family friendly housing in the wake of Measure J and Ms West agreed this 3900 Adeline Street site would be a good place to start.

3900 Adeline was a particularly contentious development proposal when it came before the council on January 20, 2009.  The red brick building was identified as "architecturally significant" under Article 67 of the city's own preservation ordinance and was also designated as "historically significant" by Oakland's Cultural Heritage Survey (since a little bit of the building extends into that town).  Further, preservationists pointed to the city's general plan which "strongly"calls for the adaptive reuse of historic buildings such as 3900 Adeline.

Before the 2009 council vote to allow the building to be torn down and replaced by the loft/condo proposal,  residents also complained the developer was demanding a variance of the zoning ordinance which calls for a maximum building height of 30 feet in that part of the Triangle neighborhood.  The loft/condo approved project tops out at 49 feet.

The proposed project is another so called "podium" style building with parking below and a gated community above,  a housing type that city planners agree that turns its back on the greater community and makes for an alienating street-scape and disconnected citizenry.

The council voted 4-1 (Fricke dissenting) on January 20, 2009 to let Madison Park proceed with no sound findings of community benefit to offset the violation of the preservation ordinance or the zoning ordinance.

The school rebuild, as mandated by the voter approved Measure J states Emeryville needs to attract more than 700 new students to the district to make the new school viable and successful. The $95 million school bond is to be bolstered by a $25 million grant from the city's Capital Improvement Program.  After interest, the whole school rebuild is expected to be nearly $400 million.  There are only a few years to bring in the new families to ensure the success of the resident's substantial financial investment in the school. 

Emeryville residents that would like to see their new $400 million dollar investment in the schools protected by making sure the school district gets enough students, should attend:

7:15 PM Tuesday November 16
City Hall


Petition To Fire Police Chief Ken James Circulates



Gun Group Says Chief James 
Must Go

An organization of gun zealots, the so called 'Responsible Citizens of California', is organizing a state-wide petition to demand the removal of Emeryville's Chief of Police Ken James for alleged violations of the US Constitution the Tattler has learned.  The Internet based group does not appear to have one Emeryville member.

The organization is centralized on the sanction of the "open carry" movement; those who advocate for openly brandishing firearms in shopping malls, around schools and anywhere else in the public arena they see fit.  Police Chief James has publicly rebuked the movement as a waste of police resources and as a serious public safety problem.  The petition started soon after Mr James received Brady Campaign honors for meritorious work for common sense gun regulation.

So far the petition has garnered 33 signatories.

Ken James, an extremely popular chief of police with Emeryville residents, is employed at the pleasure of the Emeryville City Council.


Below is the text of the petition:
To:  City of Emeryville, Emeryville Police Chief Ken James
When in the course of the history of a nation, a government of that nation repudiates its duty to protect the God given rights and liberties of the people and instead evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, a decent respect for the history of that nation and the rule of law requires that they detail their grievances. The Constitution of the these United States declares that “Congress shall make no law…abridging…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The people have peaceably assembled to voice their displeasure over the course this government has taken, and continue to do so. Those objections have been ignored, derided and met with repeated injury. Such actions demonstrate this government’s resolute intention to establish an absolute tyranny over the people. Therefore, we the people are resolved to resist these intentions and are now formally petitioning our government for a redress of our grievances. To accomplish this, let the following be submitted to the government and laid before the people:

WHEREAS, all available government and peer-reviewed research shows criminals are deterred by law-abiding citizens with the tools to defend themselves,

WHEREAS, the concept of victim disarmament is embodied in laws that disarm law-abiding citizens, while having no effect upon armed criminals, except to enable their absolute dominance and safety in nearly any criminal confrontation,

WHEREAS, Emeryville Police Chief Ken James has violated his sworn oath to support the Constitution, by acting as a leading government campaigner on behalf of victim disarmament and criminal safety above all else,

WE THE PEOPLE demand the immediate termination or resignation of Emeryville Police Chief Ken James.
Sincerely,
The Undersigned

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Police Chief Ken James Recognized For Good Works

Long An Advocate For Sensible Gun Regulation:
Emeryville Police Chief Ken James Receives Brady Campaign Honors
At their third annual meeting on November 7, the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence presented Emeryville's Ken James with an Excellence in Leadership award.  Chief James was recognized for exemplary leadership and service throughout his career as Chief of Police and Chair of the Firearms Committee for the California Police Chiefs Association where he has championed and advocated for local ordinances and state legislation to reduce gun violence in California.

Mr James was instrumental in legislating in 'microstamping' technology for handguns, making crime scene bullet casings easier to trace to help track down violent criminals.  He has also publicly rebuked and advocated against the so called "open carry" phenomenon citing the drain on public resources such brandishing brings as well as the serious public safety ramifications.  Chief James was also instrumental in helping to implement common sense guidelines for Bay Area local governments to comprehensibly regulate gun dealers in their communities.


Emeryville directly benefited from Mr James' advocacy in service of his gun dealer work last March.   Many Emeryville residents will remember the National Rifle Association (NRA) bullying tactics used at our City Hall as gun "aficionados" from all around California descended upon the council chambers and attempted to thwart the imposition of the slightest regulation for a planned gun shop on San Pablo Avenue, next to the high school.  The regulations stood up against the NRA onslaught and its threats of lawsuits and the gunners backed down.  Readers may wish to read several Tattler articles surrounding the March 16 vocal show down at City Hall.

Mr James has indicated he plans on retiring from the force in the near future having served Emeryville in uniform for decades.  Chief James has received accolades from Emeryville leaders and residents alike for his commitment to building a highly professional police force with competence and comity.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How Groupthink Brought A $400 Million Edifice

New Building Only Option Considered
Groupthink Shut Out Alternate Visions For School District

Opinion/News Analysis
What started out as an idea to increase academic achievement at Emeryville schools morphed instead into a strange insistence by the polity that an expensive new building must be erected.  The culture became permeated with groupthink after critical thinking was purged from supportive committees by the school board and the city council.
Is this really the best way?
As a consequence, the recently passed campaign for Measure J, the school rebuild bond, progressed just how the hired political consulting firm said it would.  From the opening salvos of city-wide push polling with its hidden agenda meant to sway voters to the final stubbing out of oppositional voices by the cancelling of freewheeling public forums called "living room conversations" along with the purging of alternative voices from official committees; the only idea taken into consideration was the building of a $120 million new school edifice (nearly $400 million with interest).  All fell into line and dissent was effectively quashed.  And that was the intent, right from the start.

How about something different?
The whole idea that a new school building is the best way to increase student academic achievement, accepted carte blanche by the elite, was never challenged because contrary voices were not allowed on any of the committees that were set up ostensibly to investigate this dubious premise.  The enablers never saw fit to question the official 'wisdom'.  Other voices, were they allowed to flourish, might  have argued a different vision be considered; a vision that, as it turns out is supported by a majority of educators.


Real Academic Achievement:
Small Class Size & Higher Pay For Teachers
In the academic community, as it turns out, there is no consensus on this Emeryville steamroller idea that it takes a new building to produce good academic results for students.  On the contrary, most educators outside Emeryville say it's small class sizes that brings higher academic student achievement.  Teachers are almost unanimous about this.  Many also point to the need for quality teachers and higher teacher pay is a proven way to attract better teachers.  Many academicians will say new buildings may help increase student performance somewhat but pale when compared to making smaller class sizes and hiring better teachers.

Center Of Community Life committee meeting
Those that might have asked if the emperor has clothes and question the inevitable new school building project were never able to point out the plethora of other school districts getting by with much older school buildings than the 1962 Emery High.  One only needs to look to Berkeley High School, built in 1901 (added onto in subsequent years including a large add on in 1964) and doing a far better job educating its students than Emery.   In fact the Berkeley High campus was recently designated a historic district by the National Register of Historic Places, something Emery High School is not eligible for because it's too new.  It is an inconvenient fact that many school districts across the United States are educating their children in much older schools than Emery and that they have exceptionally high academic student achievement.

Now There Are Fewer Options
We've put all our eggs in one basket
Perhaps most disturbing is the likely prospect that the $400 million dollar school rebuild project will squander Emeryville voter's admirable penchant for fiscally supporting their schools, possibly for a generation or more.  Any chance of reducing class sizes or increasing teacher pay with additional financial help from the residents is now much less likely because of the expensive new building we're going to get.  It would seem we have put all our hopes for a new regime of academic achievement in one basket; the one basket that will offer the least chance for success.  In terms of bang for bucks, we have gone for a lot of bucks and not much bang.

In an alternate universe where dissenting voices were welcome in Emeryville, these other ideas for driving up student achievement might have been part of the dialogue, they might have saved the residents a lot of money and better achieved the goal of improving education at our schools.  But back here on Earth, in this Emeryville, it seems the only alternative is their way or the highway.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Council Member West's Website: Inaccurate Measure J Information

Emeryville Council Member Jennifer West's website,emeryvillewest.blogspot.com contains a gross inaccuracy that may have given voters the wrong impression of the cost of the bond financing for the newly passed Measure J, the school rebuild bond.
In an October story about Measure J entitled Financial Considerations For Measure J, Ms West, a Measure J supporter, maintains the total cost of the $95 million bond will likely be $266 million for Emeryville residents, an amount far less than other independent bond analysts claim.  To arrive at the lower number posted on the website, it appears that only traditional bond funding was considered.  Ms West failed to include the zero coupon bond that will be a part of the financing scheme and those bonds, with their deferred interest are much more expensive than traditional bonds.

Emeryville's Measure J zero coupon bond will be paid back at a nearly 4-1 ratio, very expensive financing compared with traditional bonds and was the chief reason the Oakland Tribune and the Green Party of Alameda County recommended a NO vote on the contentious measure.

The actual cost, factoring the zero coupon bond Ms West left out will total about $383 million for Emeryville residents according to the Oakland Tribune and other independent bond analysts.

Council member West obtained her bond information from Khushroo Gheyara, an employee of Caldwell, Flores & Winters the financial "partners" for the school rebuild project.  The firm, retained by the school district, provides financial services for school bonds state wide and donated at least $8000 to the Emeryville Measure J campaign.  Caldwell, Flores & Winters is under contract with the district and in the wake of the Measure J victory, is expected to receive far more than payback for their $8000 election gamble.

Here is the text from Council member West's website:
"If the bond were sold today, at today’s interest rates, the cost of the bond would be principal plus interest roughly equal to 1.8 times the principal. In other words, with $95 million borrowed, we would pay back the $95 million plus an additional $171 million, or a total of $266 million."