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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

City Council Kicks the Can Down the Bike/Pedestrian Paths

Bike/Ped Paths Will Bring "Gang Rapes" 
to Emeryville Says Councilwoman Davis

Two amendments to the General Plan came before the Emeryville City Council Tuesday night, both aiming to remove bicycle and pedestrian paths from the plan.  The Council failed to act after deliberation, opting instead to postpone the decisions but not before providing council watchers with another evening of entertaining histrionic hyperbole.  
The General Plan, adopted in October 2009 after thorough vetting by residents, called for these paths, in keeping with its guiding principles of Emeryville as "A connected place", "Enhanced and connected open space network and green streets," "A walkable, fine-grained city, emphasizing pedestrians," and "A diversity of transportation modes and choices."

The General Plan’s guiding principles didn’t seem to mean much to the City Council Tuesday night as they looked for ways to remove these paths.  The first path would have connected 45th Street and 47th Street just east of San Pablo Avenue, and was a requirement of approvals sought by the private school Escuela Bilingue Internacional (EBI) when the school moved into the Triangle neighborhood.  The second path was intended to provide bicycle and pedestrian access between 53rd and 47th Streets along the western property line of the proposed Emeryville Center for Community Life (ECCL). 

In both cases, the Council voted to continue the discussion to the next Council meeting, asking staff to bring them amendments to the General Plan that, rather than deleting the paths entirely, would simply move the paths to undetermined locations elsewhere within these blocks.

One need only look at a map of Emeryville to see that the Council has dodged the issue in completely unrealistic ways. Neither of these blocks provides any realistic alternative locations for these paths.

In the case of the EBI path, the rest of 45th and 47th streets are filled with residences.  The City would have to purchase adjoining properties on both streets to ever have an opportunity to put a path elsewhere on the block.  Such an opportunity will obviously never arise and the City is unlikely to have the millions of dollars such an alternative would require.  But, in the fanciful hope of some multi-million dollar option arising some time in the distant future, the Council rejected the opportunity to get such a path at EBI’s expense today.

In the case of the path that could have enhanced access to and around the ECCL, the Council actually suggested that the General Plan be altered to show the path somewhere else on the School site.  The General Plan is supposed to guide our City for a twenty-year period and Council member West objected that she didn’t think it was likely that the ECCL would be redeveloped within the next 20 years.  Council member West was right about this. Imagining that a path might one day exist elsewhere on the site is pure fantasy.  Even City Manager, Patrick O’Keeffe, seeming exasperated by the Council’s unwillingness to simply delete the path, explained that it was not realistic to ask the District to come back in two weeks with an alternative location for the path: it must be on the western edge of the site, or not be a part of the design.

To their credit, Council members Jac Asher and Jennifer West tried to reject the proposed amendment to the General Plan deleting the ECCL bike/ped path, but they lost that vote 3-2.  In a subsequent vote, they joined Council member Ruth Atkin in postponing the issue to the next Council meeting, so that we can all consider this fantasy alternative location for the path.

The idea of these bike/pedestrian paths produced some entertaining hyperbole from those seeking to shut down consideration by the Council.  School District Superintendent Debra Lindo, alarmed at the prospects of the path near the future school site at the Center of Community Life told the Council members "bike/ped paths aren't helpful" to schools and the ECCL path would represent a "supervision problem" for the School District.  
Council member Nora Davis was less circumspect stating bike/ped paths represent "a place where crime can flourish" and she chastised her colleagues on the recklessness of the paths, "We have a responsibility to the citizens of this town" to stop these paths she said.  Emeryville residents could expect to see "Richmond style gang rapes" she said, if these paths are approved. 

Unfazed by Councilwoman Davis' antics, Planning Commissioner Sean Moss spoke in favor of retaining both paths, going so far as to say that the Council "could not in good faith" make the findings necessary to amend the General Plan in these ways, calling them "findings from nothing".  Commissioner Moss is right.  He simply wrongly assumed that this Council cares about acting in accordance with our City’s stated principles.



  1. Speaking of connectivity--what happened to the sidewalk to nowhere for Powell Street?

    What a shame Ruth Atkin always sits on the fence. She was given another opportunity to do what she campaigned to do, but...

    1. Perhaps she's making a simple calculation; the city's need for connectivity versus the permissible number of gang rapes and she thinks we're experiencing too many gang rapes. Connectivity will have to take a back seat to gang rapes.

  2. The path west of the ECCL will not benefit anyone and will cost money and may cause problems. Access to the school can be provided by gates in the corners. Since they can be locked at night they will allow for supervision.

    It was an error to put the 53rd street to 47th street in the general plan in the first place, now is the time to fix that.

    1. "The path west of the ECCL will not benefit anyone and will cost money and may cause problems." Replace that with: "The path (add location here) will not benefit anyone and will cost money and may cause problems." Replace that in that way and you'll get a more cogent understanding of how the City Council majority thinks. Every path is problematic, every path would be better if it just went away. Every (unreasonable) resident who clamors for these paths would be a better citizen if they just let the council do their work.

  3. Wouldn't it be nice if the City Council would hold at least one public community meeting to discuss these pathways before deleting them from the General Plan? Or, is the Council in like minds with Nora Davis and believe that the General Plan is a malleable, easily changeable document provided to us by the Businesses of Emeryville whereas the Residents need not to be bothered by the trivial removal of its' contents? I'm really getting sick of the way things are run around here.

  4. Well I just wrapped up being the parent champion for the Golden Sneaker contest at Anna Yates which is sponsored by the Alameda County Safe Routes program that champions walking, biking, and ride sharing. I guess it's program that the school administration, namely Debra Lindo, doesn't feel is necessarily helpful. Well isn't that just great! Apparently it was a waste of my time. Well I won't bother wasting any more time for this school until Debra Lindo is gone. And if that doesn't happen soon my family will be. Seriously could the district have hired anyone more tone deaf to the needs of this community? If anyone wants to start a serious campaign to oust this woman from our District sign my name at the top! I've had enough of her. My name is on this post. I'll keep you all posted on any blow back my family receives. You know for a while I was really reserving my opinion of her hoping that she could pull the school up. I'm done with her now. Completely. I've seen her writing on the wall and it really doesn't read well to me.

  5. It's time for Nora Davis to go. Gang rapes? Seriously? The woman has lost touch and clearly has no use for bike or pedstrian walks. She no longer fits into the General Plan. Time to pluck that weed, delete that path, flatten that speed bump or any other fitting euphemism you'd like to substitute. Thank you for your service. It's time to retire.

  6. there were two community meetings held last spring on the EBI project and on the pathway itself...The WEAK conditions of approval to add gates is the real "fantasy". Assuming there will be "eyes on the street" when this path is left open all night is another "fantasy". How can anyone say "in good faith" that safety is not part of the General Plan. No, just go ahead a put in a pathway that makes no sense being in that location...but do make sure to do your part and make a point of going through there at all hours of the night to balance out the sketchy characters that will most certainly utilize this "public benefit". I guarantee all these greater good folks coming out of the woodwork today will be nowhere in sight to help the poor soul that gets accosted in these paths.

    1. The safety argument for these paths and all the other proposed bike/pedestrian paths in Emeryville has not been proved as far as I'm concerned. It seems to be based on speculation and unquantified fear. The fear of crime incidentally is always there, stalking those who would attempt to craft a livable city, summoning those who succumb to it's seductive irrationality to draw back on that livability and withdraw from valuing the public commons.
      The commons should be sacrosanct. The default position should always be to work to increase livability whenever there's such a contest...unless of course the issue of safety can be demonstrably quantified. But even still, livability should hold a position of deference.
      That's how you build a livable city after all. Those are my thoughts.

    2. Well said Brian. When I first moved to Emeryville in '95 and told people, their reactions were "aren't you scared to walk the streets at night?" Well no and in fact we have a vibrant evening and night time walking community now. When I first moved here I put flower pots on the front porch and was told that they'd be ripped off in no time. Well they weren't and you know what? Pretty soon the majority of neighbors started putting flower pots on their porches and fixing up their yards and pretty soon the concrete and steel front yards began to transform. People even started tearing concrete out and putting in plants and yards! Cages started coming off the front windows. I'm not saying it was because of me that this happened, but my point is that if you close everything down in fear, fear is the environment you'll perpetuate. By the way...we're not Richmond. This is clearly not about paths anyway or even safety. It's about going against whatever plan that little cabal down there at City Hall have unilaterally envisioned and are dead set on forcing on us. After all Mother knows best. Right?

    3. I've walk on San Pablo and throught the neighborhood every night after dark and I've never been accosted and i've never felt unsafe.

  7. I am all for having safe additions to increase walking and biking. But I really can't understand how this path from 47th to 53rd will benefit anyone. I am totally against this particular path and would really love for someone to give me an example of how they personally would benefit from it. Where are you coming from and going to? I hear everyone put down mine and others safety concerns yet at the council meeting it was yes bike paths, because san pablo is unsafe. Will you be biking down san pablo then turning off to ride one block on a bike path and then heading back to san pablo?
    It will not help anyone commute to the ECCL. There is no entrance point to the campus. This path is one block which will have tall fences on either side. Personally I would rather walk down any open street than a fenced in "path". We will be losing space for the pool which is used by so many in the neighborhood. I do live in Emery Bay Village and it is not anything I could be excited about. We have had enough crime in our neighborhood because of activities at the high school both related to the school and to the field rentals. I am sorry that no one seems to care about that. I am not looking forward to sending my kids to a school that will basically have an enclosed alley behind the field. Now both schools have fence lines on open streets with constant pedestrian and automobile traffic. It is obvious if someone were to be hanging out and approaching the children. Our schools are so understaffed. How will they possibly be able to monitor the goings on when they can barely supervise the students at recess amongst themselves? Maybe there would not be any problems, but most likely there will be. I don't feel the need to wait and see and gamble on a path to NOWHERE. To joke about rapes? The tragedy at a Richmond school where a student was gang raped is not amusing to me. I don't worry about every little thing when I am walking around town, but I don't see the need to go out of our way to make a space that will just attract trouble.
    I appreciate all the work of the city council and the planning commission. I do understand what it is like to put in all the work just to have some people start complaining about it at the last minute. Not all of us lived here during the planning phases. People come and go and needs change.
    I want to thank Debra Lindo. Her comments at the council meeting were well thought out and true. I also appreciate what Nora Davis and Mayor Brinkman had to say. I may not always agree, but I think they deserve a positive comment.

    1. The ECCL path you refer to is meant to fill in a section that will ultimately extend from 40th Street north to Park Avenue along Emery Street then from Park Avenue along the existing "Emery Park" bike/ped path, then through an easement taken from AC Transit bus yard when they finally move, then continuing along the ECCL path and then connecting to the "Spur Alley" path all the way to Hollis or going through the future "Pickle Works" path to Doyle Street and then north to Berkeley Bowl along the Greenway. It is meant to serve as a route parallel to San Pablo from Park the the Berkeley border. Taking away this section will forever ruin any chance of this future north south bike/ped connection. FYI, the plan is to make the AC Transit connection directly across from the ECCL path with no jog. It would be a very convenient route for bikers and walkers.

      You should also know the General Plan calls the the ECCL path part of the self explanatory "Pedestrian Priority Zone". The removal of this path represents a subversion of the General Plan and the will of the people of Emeryville (yourself excluded).

      The pool deck at the Center of Community Life is plenty large to accommodate a widened path and the fact that the School District officials refused to engage the Planning Commission and the City Council about taking a little space from the patio is tantamount to insubordination since the employees are supposed to assuage the will of the elected officials. For any School District people to complain about taking away any space from that expansive pool patio without quantifying it is not the way public policy should be settled. There should be transparency.
      Lastly, the fear argument ignores the idea that we are not locked forever in a town run amok by criminals. Emeryville is changing and becoming moire friendly to walking and biking. We need to plan to expand this shift, not stop it.

  8. One more thing-
    I'm not joking about rape. I'm alerting citizens regarding a fatuous statement made by Councilwoman Davis. It's informative to know how disconnected Ms Davis is from the resident's desires and values. Additionally it shows people the level of desperation Ms Davis engages in as she pursues an anti-democratic polity. This rape quote is valuable to the people of Emeryville, even though it's patently absurd.

    RE Fear: It's a bad thing when people are fearful of the public commons and I feel badly for you in this regard. But you need to realize the people of Emeryville don't share your fear. Quite the opposite, they want to open MORE bike/ped paths, including these two. The people of Emeryville are not afraid of these two paths. I can't see why the tiny minority of fearful people should ruin what the vast majority want: to improve the commons and to engage with their fellow citizens, unafraid.
    If you're fearful, perhaps you should stay away from these civic arenas we wish to create and let your neighbors who want a more vibrant city, celebrate that as they see fit.

  9. On Tuesday, April 2nd, 7:15pm, the City Council will be voting on the resolution to remove the pedestrian pathway between 45th and 47th Streets. By voting to remove this pathway, the City will move the pathway on the General Plan to another area of the block where the pathway will never be installed. The moving of the pathway in the General Plan will lay the groundwork for EBI’s lawyers to remove a irrevocable easement that was negotiated between the City and Escuela Bilingue International private school that they entered into that was a trade-off for them and the negative impacts they bring to be located in a residential neighborhood. This pathway could be made to be safe with the installation of gates to be locked at night as there will be eyes on the pathway during the daytime. Both EBI and the City are ignoring this fact which is really suspicious to me. Right now, this area is locked at night and has had no problems with illegal crime activity. Removal of this pathway would not be right as it is already been approved by both the Planning Commission and the City Council (minus the gates). What the hell is wrong with having gates on this pathway? Why are they trying to get rid of this path (Is this some kind of political favor?) I don’t think I have ever seen a community garden in Emeryville designed without gates. This pedestrian pathway is definitely another public amenity that is truly needed. If this pathway is removed, it will be a clear case of malfeasance of our public official’s duties for the greater good of our community. The only benefactors of such a deal to remove this pathway is the owner/developer of the land, Steve Oliver, of Oliver and Company Construction, EBI and its’ lawyers. Removal of this pathway will be a sad day for the hopes of Emeryville’s General Plan and the City’s commitment to walkability.

  10. I think it is important to remember that while the ECCL was touted as a "community place", it really is just a school that the public will have limited access to after 6p during on school days and for some time on weekends and during the summer. This is not going to be the community benefit that the taxpayers envision their $25 million dollars buying them. Pathways, pools, amenities are not relevant to the people who control the ECCL, which is the school district. If anyone thinks otherwise, I suppose the last laugh will be on them.