Search The Tattler

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Brinkman Cries 'Unfair', Wants Automatic Extension For Delayed Project

Davis, Brinkman Feel Developer's Pain
Atkin Breaks Rank
Need For Family Friendly Housing Cited

It's reliably unceasing: Emeryville council members Kurt Brinkman and Nora Davis feel developer's pain.  What's new and exciting is Councilwoman Ruth Atkin, formerly in that club, is of late, feeling the resident's pain.  And she's putting votes in the resident's column, using her potent status as the swing voter on the council to great effect.
The new politics were made manifest at the last city council meeting when loft developer John Protopappas, CEO of Madision Park, an Oakland based development corporation, asked permission to once again, delay start of their proposed loft/codo project at 3900 Adeline Street.  This type of thing is usually a formality for developers here in Emeryville.  Ms Atkin instead joined her deeply skeptical colleagues Jennifer West and Jac Asher.
Had Ruth Atkin played her traditional role and permission been given for 3900 Adeline, it would have been year five of time extensions granted by the council for this housing project.  Mr Protopappas, who says he's having difficulty financing this project, has kept it on hold since 2009.

The council ultimatly voted to vote again in two weeks, giving Mr Protopappas another bite at the apple this Tuesday.

Another ugly loft project for the
Triangle neighborhood. 
The project calls for the demolition of an historically and architecturally significant building, something the General Plan counsels against, and the new building, another 'podium' building, a drive-in-drive-out model that turns it's back on the street is a bad model for moving forward in Emeryville critics say.  The biggest problem with Madison Park's Adeline Street project however is that the project adds to the plethora of lofts and one bedroom units and contributes to the lack of pro family housing according to the new council majority.

Mr Protopappas was probably expecting another extension to be granted, locking away the land for for his exclusive use for another year, but not this time as it turned out.  This time, only Mayor Brinkman and Ms Davis were willing to give the developer another chance.
Council member Brinkman provided his reliable second to Nora Davis' motion to grant approval for another year but the surprise this time was councilwoman Ruth Atkin's NO vote.  Ms Atkin told the attendees at the meeting the project should be changed to include more affordable three bedroom units.  Emeryville really does need more family friendly housing she said, a charge poo-pooed by Mr Brinkman and Ms Davis.
Mayor Brinkman focused instead on the developer's needs.
3900 Adeline Street
The General Plan says it should not be demolished.
Imagine if the building could be saved and transformed 
for better community benefit.
He said the three council member majority were being unfair to Madison Park,  "I support this project because I don't feel that it's fair to make these guys [Madison Park] redo this project that was previously approved."

Councilwoman West said although the council had previously approved the project and time extensions, including her, that Emeryville has changed, "There's been a paradigm shift in the way we look at development and meeting our [housing] needs" she said.
Ms Davis, on the other hand noted the paradigm shift has been the loss of the Redevelopment Agency and how that has made Emeryville desperate.  She said developers want to build lofts and one bedroom units and we are not in any position to say no, "It's to our peril to demonstrate a bias against single resident housing" she noted as a rejoinder.  Ms Atkin responded, "It's not in the best interest of Emeryville to build more studios and one bedroom units."

Nora Davis seemed to equate the council majority holding out for a better project as somehow overly emotional, "[In two weeks] let's see if cooler heads prevail" she said, invoking her position as the rational position .

Council members Davis & Brinkman cut the ribbon:
They say it's "unfair" to developers if extension
requests are not automatically renewed.
Mayor Kurt Brinkman and his sidekick Nora Davis want to leave a important mechanism to attend to the residents needs on the table at these meetings: that mechanism is their votes on our behalf.  As Mr Brinkman implied by his "unfair" statement, developers should automatically get extensions whenever they want them.  Every development proposal should be good for at least five years and the resident's interests should not be a part of the equation according to these two.

We wonder how precisely it's unfair to Madison Park Development when they haven't even broken ground in four years.  This developer has nothing to lose by the council renegotiating this valuable piece of land on behalf of  the residents, except the continuation of a guarantee for more time and the continuation of a right of exclusivity.

This project is flawed right from the start:

  • It violates the new General Plan and it's requirement to engage in adaptive re-use of historic and architecturally significant buildings.
  • It delivers more lofts and one bedroom units in a town that already has too much of that.  It robs the new school of children, giving the public infrastructure investment a reduced chance of success.
  • It's yet another podium development in a town with far too much of that.  We need residents with eyes and bodies on the streets for safety and vitality.  We need fewer drivers clogging our streets, putting the pressure on the council to respond by widening the streets. 

Councilwoman Ruth Atkin
She's kept her far.
Council member Atkin has been a strong supporter of the Center of Community Life and its school rebuild and she knows Emeryville needs to attract more families if that project is to succeed.  We're happy to see Ms Atkin follow through with her pledge to bring more family housing to Emeryville.  We recognize Ms Atkin will be under tremendous pressure to buckle under and vote to support the developer's extension request in time for Tuesday's council meeting.  We don't know what form that pressure is taking but we can imagine it must be extreme.  We urge Ruth Atkin to hold firm for the resident's sake and for the sake of our new schools.

The final decision will be made at the council chambers on Tuesday, December 18th.


  1. Thanks to our head tattler for exposing our city council's record of cozier attitudes toward developers than toward families, and thanks to Ruth Atkins for standing with council members West and Asher in this case. Let's all do what we can to support this promising shift.

  2. No more damn condos and no more demolishing historic buildings! Enough is enough already