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Sunday, March 2, 2014

'Transit' Center Project Mysteriously Missing from Emeryville Capital Improvement Presentation

'Transit' Center Pushed Down the 
Memory Hole

If the City of Emeryville planned on spending $4.2 million on a specific capital improvement project between the years 2014 and 2019, wouldn't you think that project would appear in a City Hall produced document for public edification entitled 'Capital Improvement Program Fiscal Years 2014-15 to 2018-19'?   Especially if smaller projects representing less public money were highlighted in the document?
That's what we thought.  So we were surprised when the City Staff gave a thorough account of planned capital spending and the 'Transit' Center, a Wareham Development project planned for Horton Street with it's $4.2 million publicly purchased amenity of four Amtrak bus bays, was completely  left out of the document handed out to the public and discussed yesterday morning.  Other  projects, like the Senior Center Rehabilitation at $1.9 million, the Peninsula Fire Station Renovation at $1.3 million, the Art Center at $3.9 million were explained in detail by the Staff but strangely, the 'Transit' Center at $4.2 million was not.  
"It was an oversight", Public Works Director Maurice Kaufman explained when asked.

An "Oversight"... Was it Really?

The City used the Saturday meeting to explain about the Capital Improvement Program which is essentially a 'wish list' for City projects to benefit the people.  The City also wished to elicit comment from the public about the CIP.
They took pains to describe the negative repercussions on the CIP as a result of the demise of the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and about how the City had rescued some projects from the clutches of the State of California when Sacramento declared Redevelopment Agencies illegal state-wide last year.  Emeryville had four projects so rescued and some former RDA funds were permitted to be unlocked.  The State is basically letting us use our own money to fund these projects. The four projects are the Center of 'Community' Life on San Pablo Avenue, the Art Center at City Hall, the South Bayfront Ped/Bike Bridge over the railroad tracks and the 'Transit' Center project.   Other projects in the CIP wish list are to be funded by the City with money generated without the Redevelopment Agency. The three projects included by Staff were described in detail Saturday but the 'Transit' Center never made it into the document or the discussion.  Observant people with a knack for budgetary spreadsheets might have seen the small text entry of the $4.2 million in an adjoining financial accounting however.

The crowd Saturday was asking for capital improvement funded amenities one would expect from residents: parks (for dogs and people), bike and ped infrastructure, street trees and those kind of things.  Nobody there was clamoring for bus bays.  In fact we've never heard any Emeryville resident ask for more bus bays from the public coffers.  Yet that's what we're getting.  And that illustrates the point: The 'Transit' Center project is not popular with the people of Emeryville.  There already are bus bays at the Amtrak station near the proposed "Transit' Center.  The people in Emeryville don't think it's a wise use of limited public money. The Emeryville Planning Commission, a body hand picked by the City Council, agrees with the residents; they twice voted NO to the 'Transit' Center, stating there wasn't enough in public amenities to justify the $4.2 million public cost.  But the City Council majority overrode the Planning Commission and voted to grant the public money to favored developer Rich Robbins, CEO of Wareham Development  anyway.
Now that that's done, obviously, they want it to just quietly disappear.  They'd rather not needlessly crow about it and remind people that it's developers that call the shots in this town.

Sometimes it's the little things that give away the bigger picture in Emeryville.  Like when our City Attorney Mike Biddle leapt out of his seat, grinning ear to ear, and shook the hands of Wareham representatives in attendance at the January 21st meeting after the Council voted (3-2) to override the Planning Commission and give the green light and public money to Wareham's Rich Robbins.  Sometimes it's the non-existent things that tell the tale; like when the 'Transit' Center got pushed down the memory hole.


  1. "...when Sacramento declared Redevelopment Agencies illegal state-wide last year."

    No one in Sacramento declared redevelopment agencies illegal. What the California Supreme Court ruled in 'California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos' was that the Legislature's abolishment of redevelopment in ABx1-26 was permitted but that the Legislature’s reestablishment of redevelopment in ABx1-27 under a scenario where redevelopment agencies would make payments to the state to be allowed to continue operation was not permitted.

    In a bit of Orwellian logic, the Court determined that since the voters had overwhelmingly supported Proposition 22 which protected redevelopment agencies from State raids, that the Legislature could not reenact redevelopment under this exact scenario. Thereby leaving the Legislature’s abolishment of Redevelopment in place, but leaving the Legislature powerless to reenact it, while at the same time raiding the system.

    It was not the intent of the Legislature to eliminate Redevelopment nor the intent of the voters who overwhelmingly supported it in 2010. However, the Court nonetheless ruled that these two factors had inadvertently conspired to eliminate billions of dollars of investment each year in our communities (not to mention over one billion dollars each year generated for affordable housing – funding which has yet to be replaced.)

    Also, this didn't happen last year. 'California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos' was decided in December 2011, but that's a minor point.

  2. Thanks as always for your observations. How can developers such as Rich Robbins, Wareham, continue to get largesse? Many of Robbins projects have been disastrous; think of the Terraces where residents spent years living in long-term hotels because his buildings were not livable. In fact take a look at the list of new housing already undergoing renovation in the city. Residents continue to get shoddy housing and poorly executed office space regardless of how much they pay for it. It's time for Atkin, Brinkman and Davis to stop voting for these favored sons and start thinking about the residents' needs. The deal baby deal days for the developers must end! Remember to hold these three accountable at election time: Brinkman runs for reelection this year. We must stop the 3-2 votes for large companies and developers. Look for candidates who fight for the rights of residents and make this a resident friendly city.