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Monday, November 11, 2013

Developer Seeks to Privatize Emeryville's Sidewalks at the Public Market

Private Grab of Public Commons

Who owns Emeryville's streets?  In an earlier, more progressive era the answer would have been easy; it's us, the people of Emeryville.  Now, with the help of the Emeryville City Council the answer is increasingly; it's private business concerns that owns the streets.
Take Shellmound Street at the Public Market.  As of right now, if you want to walk along the sidewalks there, you're free unconditionally to do it.  It's a real public space.  But that's all going to change if the developer for the proposed Public Market expansion, City Center Realty Partners LLC gets its way.
The developer wants to seize control over our sidewalks on Shellmound, making them their own private property.
City Center Realty Partners is busy shopping this proposal around town to Emeryville decision makers right now.  The Council will decide about this in coming months.  If the Council is in a giving mood, like they were when developer Madison Marquette asked for and received control over the sidewalks on Bay Street, then chalk up another victory for the forces of privatization in Emeryville.

Welcome to Emeryville's great new manifestation of civic alienation: the faux sidewalk.  It looks like a real sidewalk but try using it like a real sidewalk and it's off to jail with you.
"Public" Sidewalk at Apple Store on Bay Street
Customers are free to line up to buy the latest gizmo
but if one of them pulls out a sign protesting Apple's
abuse of it's manufacturing workers in China,
it's private property... and it's 
off to jail.

City Center Reality Partners wishes to be able to control 'undesirable' traffic on Shellmound Street's sidewalks in order to increase the value for future corporate tenants in their planned expansion.  From their perspective it's all very understandable.  If they rented to a commercial tenant that engaged in unethical corporate behavior let's say, they would have financial interest in stopping a ready remedy the public has to show their displeasure at times like that; the protest.  Now it's going to be, 'Sorry, no protesting on our property in front of any businesses'.  Corporate tenants would really appreciate such an arrangement.  Probably willing to pay a premium to City Center Reality for it.

Got a lingering homeless person on the sidewalk?  No problem.  He has no right to be there!  How about some protesters?  Off they go!  It'll only be shoppers on Emeryville's formerly public sidewalks if City Center Reality Partners gets their way.
It's a wonderful way to ratchet up the corporatist notion that we're not really citizens, rather consumers to be sold to.  And so far the City Council is on board.

Funny thing is this Emeryville privatization juggernaut is happening at the same time City Hall is proudly proclaiming it's affinity for so called "complete streets", the city planning concept glommed onto by staff and the Council that claims that streets are public spaces at their core and that all forms of transportation are given equal treatment and even non transportation, as in lingering or what some might call transience.
Emeryville has received planning awards for it's promulgating of the complete street idea, just as we have for our Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan at the same time that the City Council has moved to eliminate bike and pedestrian paths.   Let's hope this Shellmound public land grab give-a-way isn't going to be another example of this kind of duplicitous nexus.

The sad part about this privatization of the public commons is it's all so unnecessary.  As at the Bay Street give-a-way, City Hall isn't getting a thing in return from City Center Reality Partners.  It's just another gift to the developers by this Council...if they give in to their usual pro-developer proclivities.

The Late Great Sidewalk
Formerly a dynamic and interactive public arena, 
democratic space available for real civic engagement.
Now, a corridor for shoppers.


  1. Great Post Brian! I got ushered off at Bay St. For snapping up a Camera pic of the new Uniqlo store citing "it was not allowed without prior consent" and it really pissed me off. They gave me a post card of their "Courtesy Code" that I wanted to rip up on the spot. Let's get 'em!

    1. I was ushered off the property by a phalanx of security guards shortly after the Bay Street Mall opened. Crime committed? I was walking my dog, leashed, down the (fake) sidewalk.

    2. Oh, I should have said; while the sidewalks are private, you can resume taking pictures all you want from the street. Bay Street (the actual street) is still publicly owned. There's no way they can stop you from doing that if you are in the street. If they try you can invite them to call the police.

  2. If that's the case, make sure they pay their property taxes based on the gross square footage. And who paid for these faux sidewalks in the first place? Maybe Horton between 62nd and Stanford and Hollis between Powell and 59th will be next. Then all the commercial trucks who have nowhere to park for deliveries to Wareham buildings will be exempt from parking citations.

    Yet another reason why I avoid Bay Street.

    Time for Rob to get a Dick Tracy watch.