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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Panera Bakery: More Suburban Style Development For Emeryville

New Panera Development Emblematic Of How Emeryville Subverts Its Own Goals

If you listen to City Hall and the politicians ensconced therein you might think the ubiquitous suburban style strip mall development they've approved for the past two and a half decades is a thing of the past...they've gone to great pains recently to tell us that anyway.  But who are you going to believe; the politicians or your own lying eyes?

This 'fact file' from the company is two
years old.  Now there are 1562 stores.
The Emeryville Planning Commission and the City Council welcome their newest creation for our town: the Panera Bakery building on 40th and Horton Street.  And it runs roughshod over our new $2 million General Plan and its promise to make Emeryville a "memorable place".

NASDAQ traded, St Louis based Panera is a fast food national chain with stores across the US and Canada.  There are 1562 company-owned and franchise-operated stores total.
The corporate headquarters says they prefer to locate their stores in suburban strip malls and their business model is auto-centric vs pedestrian oriented.  With its warren of suburban malls, they see Emeryville as a perfect fit.  Our Planning Commission and City Council agree.

Here's the real deal: Does it
look like 40th Street?  Is that a
Panera Bakery in that building?
The new bakery turns its back to the street, opening up instead onto the massive surface parking lot, encouraging drivers, not pedestrian residents.  It is yet another nail in the coffin of 40th Street as a memorable place.  We remember in the early 1990's as East Bay Bridge Mall builder Catellus Development, told Emeryville residents that the incipient 40th Street would be a grand boulevard in the manner of Paris' Champs d'Elysees.  Some Champs d'Elysees it's turned out to be.

Panera will directly compete with San Pablo Avenue's Arizmendi Bakery, a locally serving worker owned collective that pays a living wage to its associates unlike Panera's $8.06 per hour wage.  Since Emeryville lacks affordable housing for its legion of low wage service workers, Panera employees will commute to Emeryville from all over the region.
Arizmendi's opened several years ago with support from former councilman John Fricke and as such might be considered the Fricke model of development for Emeryville, it could also be called the General Plan model of development since it dovetails so nicely with that document.  Conversely, Panera might be called the Nora Davis/Kurt Brinkman model of development or the anti-General Plan model.

We challenge the Planning Commission and City Council majority that approved Panera; how, precisely is this creating a memorable place?  We think this was just another in a long string of development approvals where the city employs its 'hands off developers' ethos.  It's pretty obvious they've forgotten memorability.
Let's see...Is this Emeryville or Concord or
Daytona Beach or Rancho Cucamonga or Peoria
or Kankakee or Sheboygan or Springfield?  I don't remember.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Center Of Community Life Loses Millions In Funding

Re-printed from the Secret News:

Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) On Chopping Block

May 28, 2012
By Tracy Schroth

State Has No Obligation to Fund ECCL; Attorney for Emeryville’s Oversight Board Says Agreement is Void

Two Days Too Late
An agreement by the state to pay $25 million in redevelopment money toward the Emeryville Center of Community Life (ECCL) does not constitute an enforceable contract and the city should withdraw its request for funding, said the attorney for Emeryville’s Oversight Board. The county-level Board was established to monitor the city’s transition now that the Governor has eliminated state redevelopment funds.
Oversight Board attorney Paula Crow has submitted an analysis of ECCL and other pending city projects under a new state law (AB 26) which defines what is and is not an enforceable obligation. Crow’s analysis, submitted to Oversight Board members Friday, said the agreement between the state and the city regarding ECCL was made two days too late.
Click HERE for the rest of the story.....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Triangle Turkey!

Turkey Terrorizes Emeryville

Sighted today, Emeryville's newest resident. In the Triangle neighborhood, on 45th Street at San Pablo Avenue, out for an evening stroll.

Note: An astute reader inquired about an obvious correction to this story.  It is posted in the 'comments' below.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Man In Wheelchair Falls Into Bay At Watergate, Dies

From The San Francisco Chronicle:

(05-23) 12:09 PDT EMERYVILLE -- A 61-year-old man drowned after he fell from his wheelchair into the Emeryville Marina, police said Wednesday.
The man fell into the water from a slip next to his boat about 6:05 p.m. Tuesday, said Emeryville police Officer Brian Head. The man's identity was withheld until his family could be notified.
Witnesses saw the man tilting his wheelchair, and a woman heard a splash and jumped in after him, Head said. An off-duty Emeryville firefighter found the man in another slip, Head said.
The man died at Highland Hospital in Oakland. His death is being investigated as an accident, Head said.
Henry K. Lee is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: Twitter: @henryklee

Read more:

Letter To School Board & Emeryville Community

The following letter has been mailed to all Emeryville households:

An Open Letter to the Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees and the Emeryville Community:

Since 1886, ten years before Emeryville incorporated as a city, there has been a school located on 41st Street at the current site of Anna Yates Elementary. This jewel of the Emery Unified School District has just been renovated at a cost of 8 million dollars and the Elementary students should remain in their present location and not be moved to the Secondary School site on San Pablo Avenue as part of the Emeryville Center of Community Life (“ECCL”). This would not only maintain an elementary school with a smaller scale more attractive to parents, it would also make available funds to properly complete the ECCL campus.

The ECCL campus, as presently proposed, is not financially feasible or sustainable. Having been able to issue only $48 million of $95 million in bonds, the School Board will build part of the school without adequate assurances that the additional funds will be available in a reasonable time frame. No detailed budget has ever been prepared and presented to the public for either the construction or the operation of the ECCL campus.

The fiscally responsible thing to do is build new only what we really need and can afford: a new high school, while utilizing as many of the existing facilities as possible. The people of Emeryville will spend decades repaying the $95 million in bonds and for the District to adopt a plan that spends all the money on just one of our three school sites is irresponsible. We deserve to know how all of these sites will be used, maintained, and operated over the long term. Such a comprehensive plan could still include the community- facing services envisioned, such as a public library, recreation facilities, and space for other community services, but the District's insistence on combining all the grades, K-12, on one site is a mistake.

We call on the Board of Trustees to adopt a new vision for our District that leaves the Elementary students in place and that clearly details both construction and operational budgets for all the school sites.

  • Richard Ambro Ph.D., Residents' United for a Livable          Emeryville (“RULE”) member 
  • April Atencio, RULE member 
  • Lei Bass, President, Anna Yates Parent Teacher Organization 
  • Steve Bass, PTO member
  • Brian W. Carver, Former Chair Measure J Citizens' Oversight Committee & parent 
  • Brian Donahue, parent of Anna Yates student, RULE member 
  • Scott Donahue, 35-year Emeryville resident 
  • Ronald Henry, parent of Anna Yates students, PTO member
  • Art Hoff, former President Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees 
  • Marcia Parham, Former President Anna Yates PTO 
  • Tracy Schroth, RULE member 
  • Joan Strasser Ph.D., RULE member

All affiliations are provided for identification purposes only and do not reflect the endorsement of any organization.

Please add your name to this letter by signing online at: 

or contact us via regular mail at: 
Save Anna Yates Elementary 
4333 Holden St. #51 Emeryville, CA 94608 
or at (510) 654-0166 or (510) 717-1281

We hope to present this letter at the District Board Meeting on June 11, 2012, 6:00 p.m. at the ESS Theater.

To receive more information and future updates via e-mail, please join our mailing list at:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Emery Bus Board Says 'NO' To Crediting Citizens

Emery Go Round To Residents: 
You Don't Count...Literally

Emeryville's free bus, the Emery Go Round, convened their Board of Directors last week to discuss charges made by the Tattler that Emeryville taxpayers are receiving short shrift, a total lack of recognition from the bus service in advertising, including prominent signage sprawled on the buses.
The Emery Go Round Board decided the public financing it receives from City Hall should continue to go unacknowledged.  The contributions to the service from Emeryville's private sector: "A Free Shuttle Service Provided By Emeryville Businesses" will continue to be proudly proclaimed on the sides of the buses they decreed.

The Board's proclamation puts to rest conjecture about if the Emery Go Round had simply made a mistake in not acknowledging Emeryville's taxpayer residents with the signage.  With last weeks decision, the Board continues to proudly proclaim that the popular bus service is paid for exclusively by Emeryville businesses as it has since Emery Go Round's inception but there now exists an officially sanctioned definitiveness to the bogus funding claim.

The Tattler story on May 2nd  revealed how Emery Go Round was forwarding incorrect information about its sources of funding.  On the company's website, funding was "solely" attributed to Emeryville businesses and another website about Emery Go Round claims the funding for the free bus service is "100% funded by Emeryville business".
The Tattler noted on May 9th, the Emery Go Round changed their website by removing the word "solely" from their claim of business funding.

The Emery Go Round Board of Directors noted they are not concerned that the information they are providing to the public on the buses is inaccurate and their decision to keep the signage as it is, is final.  They will, however, continue to take taxpayer funded payments from City Hall they indicated.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reactionary Laws Make Bad Public Policy

Ghost Stories And Marsh Mellows Will Now Land You In Jail

What if Emeryville's Recreation Center, a popular summer camp for local children, wanted to say, design an outdoors appreciation program that culminated in a actual camp out under the stars in a tent for a night complete with a campfire and marsh mellows out at the marina point park?
Well, after next month when the council votes on a new ordinance for Emeryville, they'd all be arrested.

That's because out of fear of the Occupy movement, what's now allowable with City Hall special permission; that is camping in a public park, will soon be a misdemeanor offense with no chance for permission to be granted, even if it's urban school kids learning the joys of camping.

Last night at City Hall, the Chief of Police Ken James told the city council he is feeling constrained because as of now, officers can only issue citations to illegal campers.  He said he needs a bigger hammer; a new misdemeanor law will allow officers to arrest campers he said.  It'll be off to jail with them.  Mr James invoked the specter of the Occupy movement to convince the council members.  With the new Emeryville law, camping is to be made illegal under any circumstances without any possibility for special permission to be granted.  The new law is not meant to's meant to prohibit, full stop.

This is the worst way to make law: from an emotional response comes a pure reaction.  Emeryville has gone for over a hundred years without the criminalization of camping and now because of the Bay Area police officer's bizarre obsession with the Occupy movement, and it is an obsession, we're told we have to add yet another harsh sanction to the books.  This kind of anti-rational emotional responses to the "Just Say No" drug hysteria of the 80's lead California law makers to adopt the absurd and overwrought 'three-strikes' laws.

We respect and admire Police Chief James but he blew it on this one and the council is wrong to pass laws that are so obviously reactionary in nature.  Let's not let fleeting emotional events overtake us... let's be a little more circumspect as we engage in what should be the serious business of law making.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lawmaker Attempts To Curb Emery School District's Corrupt 'Pay To Play'

Today's Bay Citizen features a story about California school bond corruption that conjures up abuses from the passage of Emeryville's 2010 Measure J school bond.  
Emeryville's Measure J, like other recent school bonds statewide, was funded by firms that would benefit financially from passage of the measure.   Measure J cleared $95 million in Emeryville taxpayer funded bonds for the building of the Center of Community Life.
The Measure J campaign was funded by:

  • $3000 from Nexus Partners- the architectural design team hired by the School District after the election to the tune of $6 million 
  • $10,500 from Caldwell Flores- the politically connected Emeryville bond writing firm who got the Measure J contract worth millions of dollars
  • $1000 from Greg Kato- the vice-president of Caldwell Flores
  • $5000 from Jones Hall- a bond counsel firm
  • $10,000 from Turner Construction- the contractor selected to build the project worth millions of dollars
It should be noted all these campaign donations occurred before the election and subsequent passage of Measure J.  Only two private citizens not expected to receive pay back donated (a small amount) to the campaign, everyone else stood to benefit financially with passage of the measure.
The figures above illustrate the huge payout a small investment in a school bond can bring; the focus of the Bay Citizen story. 
The Bay Citizen story highlights a San Jose School District and its recent school bond, coincidentally also a Measure J.

Here then is today's Bay Citizen story:

Critics struggle to end 'pay to play' in school bonds

  • A
  • A
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By  on May 14, 2012 - 12:00 a.m. PDT

Creative Commons/borman818
Critics of the practice in which financial firms help pass school bonds that they profit from are continuing to push for reforms, but so far have faced resistance and failure.
In California, underwriting companies hired by school districts to sell bonds often make campaign contributions to help convince voters to pass the bond measures. A California Watch investigation found that leading underwriters gave $1.8 million over the last five years to successful bond measures, and in almost every case school districts gave underwriting contracts to those same firms.
Underwriters are essentially middlemen, buying bonds from districts and selling them to investors at a higher price. Underwriters say they generally only give campaign contributions after getting hired; school districts argue the money has no influence. But critics call it a “pay to play” system that potentially costs taxpayers more than a strictly competitive process would.
The California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors has been pushing to end the practice for years. Last year, it sponsored a bill to prohibit financial firms from providing both underwriting and campaign services for bond measures. The bill failed in committee, but its author, Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, vows to bring it back next year and add limits on campaign donations.
"It’s a clear conflict of interest. Wall Street brokerage houses are buying local elections," Norby said. "The whole democratic process is being subverted and corrupted."
Norby acknowledged his efforts face determined opposition from school districts and some underwriting companies. Similar bills failed in 2010, 2009 and 2008.
"You have the public school establishment in an unholy alliance with Wall Street," Norby said. "It’s hard to beat it."
School districts are worried that Norby's legislation would freeze underwriter campaign donations, which are needed to successfully pass bonds, said David Walrath, legislative advocate for the Small School Districts' Association.
"We believe this bill, if enacted, would make it less likely that we could pass bonds, which would mean we’d be less able to provide adequate facilities for our students," Walrath said.
Walrath said the proposal would especially harm small districts in rural areas, which are less able to raise money for bond campaigns from residents. He also takes issue with the bill for singling out financial firms, while architects, builders and unions also routinely give money to bond campaigns.
"What is it about the service (underwriters) provide that’s so objectionable that they cannot have political free speech rights to assist in a campaign for something they believe in?" Walrath said.
Federal regulators have also expressed concern that restrictions on bond measure contributions wouldn't pass constitutional muster. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld limits on contributions to individual candidates, but not for ballot initiatives.
"It does touch on a person's ability to make constitutional speech," said Ernesto Lanza, deputy executive director and chief legal officer of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board.
For years, some financial giants have been pushing the self-regulatory agency to adopt restrictions. In 2008, representatives of Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. urged the board to limit bond measure contributions from financial firms because of "the perception that making such a contribution could cause an underwriter to be selected and to help ensure that the playing field is leveled for all underwriters."
Other underwriters, however, pushed back. School districts and other government entities “are in need of the public policy and campaign expertise of experienced regional investment banking firms," wrote an executive of George K. Baum & Company.
The Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board ended up requiring disclosure of campaign contributions and is still considering whether more regulations are necessary, Lanza said.
In California, the debate has focused on underwriters that provide election-related services along with their traditional underwriting business.
In 2010, for example, Franklin-McKinley School District in San Jose hired George K. Baum to help lay the groundwork for a bond measure campaign and to underwrite the bonds once they passed. The pre-election services included strategic planning, a public information program and a community opinion survey.
"George K. Baum & Company offers school districts a turnkey approach to facilities funding," the company advertised in its proposal. "Our school district bond election clients have been overwhelmingly successful."
The additional services are supposed to be free. School districts are prohibited from using public funds for bond campaigns. But county treasurers argue that school districts end up paying more under these arrangements. 
"We feel that these prepackaged campaign and underwriting relationships result in higher fees to the taxpayers," said Jackie Denney, president of the California Association of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors.
Neither the district nor George K. Baum responded to requests for comment.
But in its proposal to the school district, the company stated, "Our competitors would like you to believe that the District will pay a higher fee for our additional services, but this is patently untrue. The only differences in this regard between our firm and our competitors are our smaller profit margin and our dedication to specialization."
Under its contract with the district, George K. Baum stood to make 1.1 percent of the bonds sold. 
The company gave $8,500 to the campaign for Measure J, a $50 million bond measure on the November 2010 ballot. It also provided $10,000 worth of "Campaign Consulting Services," according to campaign filings. The measure passed with 70 percent of the vote, and George K. Baum has been selling the district's bonds since then.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Property Owners Group Starts Ballot Initiative

Grassroots Group Says Public Notice And Accountability Lacking
The Emeryville Property Owners Association has authored a new Measure to address the problems of a lack of public notice and City Hall accountability.  The Measure is meant to accompany a future ballot initiative brought by a citizen petition drive.  The Measure may be viewed on the EPOA website HERE.

From The Archives

The Tattler introduces 'From The Archives', a new feature that brings back Tattler stories from the past that we deem to still be of interest.  From The Archives will appear on an occasional basis.  A brief follow-up to the original posting appears at the bottom of the story as an addendum.
Here then is our From The Archives offering for today:

Wednesday April 21, 2010
'Drive In & Drive Out Condos': Emeryville's Alienating Architecture

'Auto Centric' City Subverts Our Goals

News Analysis
Emeryville has had a 15 year period of explosive residential growth planned in conjunction with the growth in commercial development that has been going on even longer. The newly approved General Plan calls for more growth in the residential sector albeit at a slower pace than what we've experienced up till now. The use of the word 'planned' should be qualified since only the idea of adding more residences has been considered by the decision makers. The actual type of housing we've been getting has been supplied by the developers themselves with no intervening action on the part of City Hall. The type of housing they've been building has been what they have seen fit to build here in Emeryville; what they've estimated will maximize their profits. City Hall has kept out of their way.

Podium Development
Room for lots of cars:
This is how Emeryville designs streets.
The buzz word heard from city planners at City Hall and around the nation for that matter is 'Smart Growth'. This is the idea that cities should increase in density by 'urban infill', with use of 'mixed use zoning' so as to discourage suburban sprawl; a decidedly unsustainable growth model. Out of this noble concept has arisen a variation on an old idea: the podium development. Essentially, this is a building over a parking garage. What makes it 'smart' is the addition of so called 'liner retail' fronting the sidewalk and shielding the parking garage from view. If the building is housing, this would be called mixed use; a mix of retail and residential in one zone. Much hyperbolic rhetoric flows from planners about this whole concept; flighty talk of activated pedestrian experiences and it's inherent nexus to civic engagement. The problem is it never seems to quite pan out the way its sold. The reason? Podium development by its very nature has systemic problems that subvert the lofty goals it aspires to. Emeryville's developers for their part have settled on this kind of building as the simplest way for profit maximization.

Drive In, Drive Out Development
This is how a sidewalk should be 
used in a city.
This ubiquitous architecture subverts the livability goals of the City of Emeryville by taking pedestrians out of the public realm and by disengaging and estranging the condo dwellers from the greater city. The condos all come with at least one assigned parking space and the residents come and go exclusively by use of the car. These condo developments function like little gated communities, their backs turned away from the town. Some architects, aware of this glaring problem have attempted to ameliorate this civic disconnect by placing some of the unit's front doors facing the streets like the 'City Limits' project on 67th Street. These doors are not used by their owners since the project was designed for use by cars. There's never a reason to use the front doors and they function as a curiosity like some half remembered archaeological artifact from a bygone era.

Is there another way of building cities that encourages real civic engagement among its residents?

An Alternate Emeryville:
An Architecture Of Civic Engagement
Imagine if we could plan how our city were to look and feel, how it actually worked for the residents. Imagine if we could make a city with full realization of the benefits of the engaging psychology of space. Imagine if the sidewalks were really fully "activated" instead of the empty rhetoric we now get from the developers. Imagine coming home from work and walking a block or two to your front door. You run into friends and neighbors on your short walk, they also are heading home. You stop by a green grocer on the corner and pick up something for dinner, perhaps stopping by the neighborhood florist to pick up a few flowers for the table.

Condos With Real Front Doors
A front door opening to the street!
Chance encounters can happen,
community is built.
We could have all this by directing developers to build a different type of condo (or apartment) building. It would mean the end of earmarked parking spaces on site for each dwelling. Instead, residents would park at parking structures peppered throughout the city, built and paid for by the developers. These new Emeryville residents would walk a block or two from the parking structures to their front doors, right on the sidewalk, just like how our grandparents used to do, coming home from the street car stop. Each building could have a few parking spaces on site for the elderly or the infirm and a place for temporary parking for drop off. Everyone else would walk. When it's raining, people would learn to use umbrellas. All this new pedestrian traffic would lure real sidewalk retail; in addition to helping civic engagement (and exercise), we would be helping create an economic flowering as well. This new type of building would also dovetail nicely with the regime of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) the city has been touting. This is a mandated set of restrictions the city places on a developer to try to encourage use of alternate transportation by residents. Up till now, TDM's have been competing against development that intrinsically favors car drivers and these mandates haven't worked very well. Since virtually all residents would have to walk the last block or two anyway, more residents might see benefit in not using a car at all opting instead for walking, biking or mass transit.

No More Free Ride For Developers
Everybody says this is how
they imagine a livable city.
What's Emeryville doing
to achieve this?
We would have to stop the politics as usual and embrace a more democratic development model to get there from here. We can't wait for developers to give us this style of housing, after all they've already worked out the best way to maximize their profits and it's this drive in & drive out development model they keep pushing. Instead, it's going to take the city council deciding we want a livable city. The council has to take a new path. They need to tell the developers that the old way isn't working for us, the residents. The developers are going to have to accept the new awakening in Emeryville. Instead of two dollars of profit, they're only going to make one dollar of profit. The old ways of the decision makers giving away the store are coming to an end.

If we build less alienating residences then everybody wins, even those who don't live at the new condos. With a more connected and engaged citizenry, other aspects of life in Emeryville improves as well, the schools, the business sector and the government. All this far reaching civic improvement can be attained by the very simple policy of forcing people to walk a block or two through the neighborhood by not putting parking in the condo buildings. To those who might think this idea too radical, remember, this is how all cities were built for generations. The idea that cars should be incorporated into the buildings is relatively new. Our grandparents built cities like this, they used front doors. It's time we take the good ideas they left for us and incorporate them into a new ethic on how to build livable cities ourselves.

UPDATE:  Since this story first appeared the Great Recession has continued along at an increasing pace for municipalities in California.  Emeryville's budget has been skewered and the Redevelopment Agency has been absorbed by the State.  Private residential building projects have been extremely curtailed.  We've entered a period of austerity and the fix outlined by this story, the idea we should be building public parking garages peppered throughout town, now seems increasingly remote.  Perhaps some of this can be accomplished at the margins as we move forward in time.  With that in mind, each new project approved moving forward, should take into account the need to start building a fund to build these parking garages. 

Even though we still have the capacity to vision this kind of livability, albeit on a very limited basis, at this juncture and likely for the next generation at least, the picture presented by this story  represents the road not taken.  These community building development ideas likely won't be Emeryville's legacy.  Emeryville's story will be one mostly of squandered opportunity.