Residents Still Wait For Pickleworks Connection
Call it another case of 'who does the City of Emeryville really work for?'.
More than 10 years after city officials, under pressure from residents, announced they would use eminent domain to re-establish a public walkway between 53rd and 55th streets if they had to, residents are still waiting.
Now dubbed the 'Pickleworks Path,' it was once a pedestrian short-cut connecting EmeryBay Village, Novartis and the Child Development Center on 53rd Street with the small businesses, and the CoHousing project on Doyle and 55th Streets along with the rest of North Emeryville. The once 300 foot stroll is now blocked by two padlocked fences and requires pedestrians to take a lengthy six block detour.
The city's newly approved general plan calls for the restoration of this pedestrian connection.
In 1999, developers added padlocks to two gates, severing the walkway as a new building went up behind the old Pickleworks facade.
Residents inquiring about the path a over a decade ago were told by officials that the pathway was privately owned and the property owner barred access fearing that pedestrians would vandalize the building. Officials said their request for a public easement was declined as was daytime access to the pathway.
Residents were told that the only way the path could be restored, owing to the recalcitrance of the landlord, was by seizing it through eminent domain, a process the city of Emeryville is very familiar with.
|This path now private and blocked by this gate,|
connects 55th and 53rd streets and would help
shave blocks off north and south bound
pedestrian's travels if made public.
Recently however, eminent domain has morphed into an entirely new form: the conveyance of property from one private owner to another private owner, with a public entity only involved as a middleman of sorts. This new version was recently and controversially ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court in the infamous Kelo vs City of New London case where people's homes were seized by a Connecticut city and then given to a developer who planned to construct a shopping mall.
Emeryville has been a pioneer in the private to private use of eminent domain. A recent example was the seizure of the so-called Alder property on the Northeast corner of Hollis and Powell Streets. Michael Alder, the owner of a century-old, seismically retrofitted brick building housing a law office, an architecture firm and firm that converted cars to operate on electricity, had no plans to sell his building. That didn't matter to Emeryville officials who used eminent domain to seize the structure and convey it to Wareham Development and its multimillionaire CEO, San Rafael's Rich Robbins. Wareham bulldozed Alder's historic structure for a planned project dubbed 'Emery Station Greenway.' Robbins received almost $2 million in subsidies from the city for his efforts (please see January 25th Tattler story). Council watchers noted that the city made Robbin's needs a top priority, completing the entire process in barely a year.
This trend has been repeated throughout the city; lightning fast turn-around for favored developers, while eminent domain projects that would improve the quality of life for ordinary residents like restoring the Pickleworks path limp along at a glacial pace.