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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Council, Staff Fear Looming Public Backlash Over Horton Street Bike Blvd

Fear Not:
 Base Public Policy on Measurable Metrics, Deliberative Process

Horton Street Backlash To Be Expected
'Complete Streets' Idea Won't Be Stopped

News Analysis/Opinion
After nine years planning, last week the Emeryville City Council directed the Public Works Department to install temporary bollards on Horton Street meant to slow down vehicles and to make the street so difficult to traverse, frustrated drivers will seek other streets for their north/south travel through town.  The idea is to make Horton Street inefficient and unpleasant for drivers.  And if that doesn't work, if drivers still continue to use Horton as a through street for commuting, frustrating as it is soon to become, then the Council will finally divert all through traffic off the street except emergency vehicles and bicycles.
We can see it now: drivers, residents among them, will be frustrated and angry.  A mob will descend on City Hall, yelling at the Council, angrily demanding the street be made whole once again for drivers.  There will be threats of recalls of Council members.

Passions always run high when people feel something is being taken away from them in the public commons.  It's to be expected.  Because streets belong to everyone, while the drivers will be yelling and screaming, another part of the public with equal access to the commons, bicyclists, will be made whole by the Horton Street traffic calming.  And all will be good; proper deliberative procedure will be done and democracy will be served.

Triangle Traffic Calming Analogue?
In the meantime, the fear is palpable at City Hall.  Council members, Staff alike are adamant, 'we don't want a repeat of the Triangle Neighborhood traffic calming debacle', they've said.  What they're fearfully conjuring is when City Hall attempted to slow down and divert speeding cut-through traffic in that neighborhood some years ago.  It was precipitated by resident anger over the speedways that had become the streets there and finally reached a coup de grace with the death of a child to a speeding car.

Temporary Traffic Calming
A few of these sand filled

barrels in the
Triangle Neighborhood
streets brought
pitchforks and torches
to City Hall.
The Triangle traffic calming began like the Horton Street traffic calming: with a plan, a public vetting and a vote of the Council.  It all happened in a nearly year long deliberative process, the public encouraged to attend the several Saturday meetings held at the Senior Center.  Many Triangle neighbors did attend and did help plan the traffic calming for their streets.  Many more couldn't be bothered.  Finally the plan was agreed upon.  Then came the temporary traffic bollards, put up to study the effects and to see if the problem had been solved by implimentation of the plan.  And right on cue, after the bollards went up, the angry mob came down...down to City Hall with their recall threats.

This was all too much for every Council member, save John Fricke.  The rest of them, worried about their re-elections or outright recall, withered under the threats and yelling and the year of deliberate and methodical study to calm traffic by responsible Triangle neighbors was flushed down the toilet.  The neighborhood yellers and screamers won.  The ones inclined towards good governance lost.
Later, after much consternation, a less invasive traffic calming solution was finally devised.

So we know an angry mob is coming to City Hall after the bollards go up on Horton Street.   But what should we expect of responsible elected public officials in response?  Should we expect them to react, to flush good governance, to selfishly move to protect their job in the face of the yellers and screamers?  Or should we expect them to do their job?

The difference with the Horton Street traffic calming, besides the nine years of study conducted, is the plan.  Whereas the traffic calming for the Triangle neighborhood had a plan produced by a city planning firm commissioned by the Council,  the Bike Plan ensconced at City Hall that is dictating the parameters of the Horton Street traffic calming, has the (defacto) force of law.   The City Council is free to amend the Bike Plan but they're not free to ignore it.  And if they buckle under the onslaught of an angry mob, they will have to amend the Plan to reflect that.

Only Two Choices Available
The Bike Plan dictates that the Horton Street Bike Boulevard have no more than 3000 vehicle trips per day, a number far lower than currently uses the street.  This fact is what is driving the traffic calming now being sought.  The Plan describes remedies to frustrate drivers and make them select different streets, leaving Horton below the 3000 mandate.  If however the Council decides to give in to the driver's demands, they have two choices:

  1. Raise the number of allowable drivers on Horton street, or 
  2. Eliminate its bike boulevard status altogether and return Horton to a regular street

If the Council moves to raise the Bike Plan's 3000 vehicle trips metric for Horton, they will be up against an increasing East Bay bike commuting coalition that will not take to that calmly.  Already, the 3000 number is higher than that of Berkeley or Oakland.  Those cities have bike boulevards that call for no more than 1500 vehicle trips per day.  During the formulation of Emeryville's Bike Plan, the 3000 number was a concession to the business community.  Any move to raise that already high number will be met with resistance.  And that resistance would be well founded.  A bike boulevard with more than double the surrounding cities ceases to be bike boulevard in anything other than name.  And of course there's also the original reason for having low numbers of cars on bike boulevards: because high numbers are unsafe.

Asphalt Grinder
One of these would
make short work of the
Horton Street Bike Boulevard
stencils... and
Emeryville's reputation.
If the Council moves to amend the Bike Plan to eliminate the Horton Street Bike Boulevard altogether, they will have to grind off the existing stencils on the asphalt proclaiming the street to be a bike boulevard.  Also, they'll have to take down the many purple signs now identifying Horton Street as a bike boulevard.   The press will be there for that, the Tattler among them, photo documenting the workers grinding off the stencils and taking down the signs. The resultant photos would make for some embarrassing moments for City Hall we imagine.  It wouldn't be a high water mark for Emeryville public relations among civilized cities, never mind the notion of good governance.

The problem is going to get worse for those who champion driving in Emeryville, those who balk at the idea of 'complete streets', streets designed for everyone to use.  We expect this problem to extend to other bike boulevards in Emeryville as we continue to add new apartment buildings and thousands of new residents.  The other bike boulevards also will be under existential threat as they also experience too much vehicle traffic.  Those other bike boulevards it should be noted, are allowed only up to 1500 vehicle trips per day as the Bike Plan dictates.

Moving forward, decision makers need to stick to the cogent, measured and rational policy that our Bike Plan delivers.  We need to force any Council member that waivers on Bike Plan implementation to show us their alternate solution.  Would be decision makers, too, shouldn't be given a pass.  If they propose to not implement the Bike Plan as City Council candidate John Bauters recently did, we expect them to show us which of the two choices; increase the allowable vehicle numbers or the elimination of the bike boulevard status, they support.

To the yellers and the screamers that we know are coming to City Hall, remember, the City Council's two choices elucidated above are your two choices as well.  It's OK to yell and scream but we want to hear your solutions.  Which one of the two choices will it be?

Are asphalt grinders in our future?  We think the last election has settled that question most likely.  Every City Council wanna be says they support our Bike Plan in their campaign literature and in televised debates every two years.  We think the newest Council members actually do support biking.  The asphalt grinders will likely stay in their garages.  Bring on the yellers and screamers.  It's all good.  Let's have some lively democracy in Emeryville.
Coming soon to the Emeryville City Council chambers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson Decision Protestors in Emeryville

Last night, protestors railing against the Grand Jury decision regarding the Ferguson MO police officer shooting of an unarmed man, took to the streets in Emeryville.
From the Emeryville Police late last night:

Advisory: 200+ protestors at 43rd and San Pablo. Protestors
are blocking traffic, causing small fires and vandalism.
At around 11:30 pm, over 200 protestors have marched north on San Pablo from downtown Oakland up to 45th and San Pablo. They are blocking all northbound and southbound traffic on San Pablo. The protestors are starting small fires and throwing rocks and bottles. Police are holding the line.
Contact Information: Jeannie Quan  Field Services  510-596-3706


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Housing in Emeryville Faces Big Change

New 'Housing Element' 
+ New Council Majority
=  Big Change

News Analysis/Opinion
A funny thing has been happening in Emeryville over the last 20 years; as the city has experienced tremendous residential growth, virtually none of it has been anything like what everybody in town says they want.  Strangely, even the City Council members themselves, the ones charged with approving residential housing development, even they say they don't want the kind of housing that keeps getting built here.
Without getting into the obvious political dysfunction if not outright prevarication regarding what the Council members say they want (loudest at re-election time), the backwards universe described above now appears to be ready to crumble.
Two vital game-changers have entered the scene in Emeryville: a new 'Housing Element' and a new progressive City Council majority.  Working in tandem, these two forces are going to mean Emeryville residents will likely get the kind of housing they really want finally.  The old days of developers having a free hand, regardless of whatever some pesky official documents at City Hall say, are likely over.  What we say we want and what we get are likely to be a closer match from now on.

The Housing Element
Bound for a dusty shelf
until the November 4th
City Council election.
The new Emeryville Housing Element, certified by the City Council on November 18th, is compiled by a professional urban housing firm, the Housing Committee and the Planning Commission that takes account of the existing housing conditions and establishes housing goals and implementation actions.  The new Housing Element is part of Emeryville's General Plan and it's the final word on housing in Emeryville until 2023.

The document doesn't mince words as pertains to the housing need side of the equation.  Central to that is a goal of more affordable family friendly housing for Emeryville.  Developers have been building too much market rate housing for singles in Emeryville the Housing Element says and our town hasn't been well served by a City Council majority that has been unwilling to effectively plan for the future.  The new Housing Element isn't alone in this assessment, Homayra Yusufi at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy authored a study, scathing in it's recounting of the baleful history of Emeryville housing highlighted by the Tattler in 2011: Building a Community: Affordable Family-Friendly Housing in Emeryville.   After the publicly embarrassing Goldman Study, the Council has moved forward a little on affordable housing, albeit in fits and starts,  but the Housing Element notes the need for affordable family friendly housing remains huge.

Here's some of the findings made by the Housing Element-

Existing Housing:

  • 82%  of new housing is comprised of studios or one-bedroom units (52% increase 2010-13)
  • 65% of occupied units are rental (47% increase 2010-13)
Housing Goals:
  • Improve 'housing tenure' specifically for affordable family-friendly housing 
  • Increase owner occupancy
Community Outreach:
The Housing Element uses data from a community workshop, a community 'roundtable' and an online community survey conducted in spring 2014.  The community reports the following needs-
  • Emeryville needs more affordable housing for families with children
  • Greater home occupancy rate (target 50%)
  • Larger households
  • More for-sale units and less rental units
  • Retail associated with housing should be locally serving, locally owned, non-chain, non-'formula'
There's lots of expensive plans commissioned by the City Council gathering dust at City Hall.  The General Plan, the Pedestrian/Bike Plan, the Climate Action Plan and a plethora of neighborhood design guideline plans among them.  Some of Emeryville's plans have received awards.  Some of these plans have been done in order to satisfy State requirements.  Some were probably conducted with an eye towards imparting an aura of legitimacy for Emeryville, more to give the impression this town is as good as other towns with similar plans. The problem has been when there's a contest between a City Plan and a developer's desires.  The plans we have are no match against a developer with profit maximizing as his goal.  Then the plans remain on their respective shelves or they get amended to accommodate the developer (the Tattler has reported on this for the entirely of its near 5 year run).
Now something has changed.  In the wake of the recent City Council election, we think the Housing Element is going to be actually considered, as development proposals like the Sherwin Williams Project winds its way through the approval process.

The Sherwin Williams Project Can't be Built as Proposed
Sherwin Williams developer SRM Ernst wants to build a mostly residential project in the Park Avenue neighborhood with almost 500 all rental apartment units, all market rate with no guarantees about locally owned locally serving retail uses.  The vast majority of the apartment units are proposed to be studios and one bedrooms.
The Sherwin Williams Project as it is being proposed, will not be able to be built if the new City Council takes the Housing Element seriously.  Housing projects in Emeryville in the future not only need to be compliant on their own with the Housing Element, but they also further, need to help the whole city bring its averages towards the goals it postulates.   The Sherwin Williams project does neither.
CEO Joe Ernst
of SRM Ernst

Tell your friends
Joe, Emeryville
has changed.

It's easy to see how the Sherwin Williams developer could have gotten the project he wants if Emeryville hadn't had an election wherein we elected two new progressive Council members added to an existing one.   Without an election like what we had on November 4th, SRM Ernst would simply be given blanket approval for what ever they want, regardless of the new Housing Element.   Now, we're not so sure.  We think there's been a change in Emeryville.  CEO Joe Ernst of SRM Ernst is about to find this out.  Let's hope he tells his friends.  We want to attract a new type of developer to our town.  We want to see developers that aren't expecting carte blanche City Hall subservience from now on. The last few parcels of fallow land in Emeryville are going to be developed with a different operating system: a system with the residents in mind.  Sorry, Joe (and the rest of you).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Alameda County Releases Final Election Results

Alameda County Certifies Emeryville 
Election Results 
Finally, it's official.  The Alameda County Registrar of Voters has certified the November 4th election in Emeryville.
Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue are our newest City Council members and they join with Donn Merriam as our newest Emery School Board Trustee.  John Affeldt and Christian Patz, incumbents both, will return to the School Board.  Miguel Dwin, a School Board incumbent, loses his seat.  Yes on Measures U&V won, those being the charter city and real estate transfer tax measures as well as Measure K, the school parcel tax.

The Registrar certified these results today:

Emeryville City Council  (top two)

  • Dianne Martinez   1219
  • Scott Donahue    1141

         John Bauters    950
          Ken Bukowski    341

Emery School Board  (top three)

  • John Affeldt    1255
  • Christian Patz    1152
  • Donn Merriam    730

         Miguel Dwin    709

Measure U

  • Yes    1314

         No    967

Measure V

  • Yes    1353
         No    921

Measure K

  • Yes    1952

         No    327

Horton Street Bike Blvd: Brinkman, Davis say NO

After Nine Years Planning,
After Countless Volunteer Hours,
After Countless Paid Staff Hours,
After Voting $200,000 for the Bike Plan,
After Certifying the Finished Plan,
Nora Davis & Kurt Brinkman 
Call Bike Plan 'Unrealistic'

"We're going to make people ride a bike?"
-Nora  Davis

Council members Nora Davis & Kurt Brinkman told residents they don't understand Emeryville's Bike Plan Tuesday night, the same plan they themselves voted for in 2012 and then they said the Plan doesn't sound any good.  And then they both voted NO to its implementation.  It was an astonishing Council meeting drama even though ultimately the Plan's implementation was agreed upon by the other three Council members.  The two Council members said the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, a part of the Plan and the object of Tuesday's vote, is not something they can now support even though no new information about it had come to light.  No hidden traps or obscured pitfalls or lurking poison pills have been revealed about the planned Horton Street Bike Boulevard by the staff.  The only change that was revealed was Nora Davis & Kurt Brinkman's change of heart right at the moment of implementation.

The NO vote by these two was nine years in the making but if it were in the works all that time, they kept it to themselves.   Still, they offered no reasons for their reversal on Horton Street the two have ostensibly supported for the last nine years.

Horton St Bike Blvd: Hand Finally Forced
The sudden reversal is remarkable given that the two Council members have been moving this Horton Street bike project forward by asking for more time to study it over the years then voting to spend $200,000 of the taxpayers dollars to prepare a Plan drafted by Berkeley's Alta Planning.  The two Council members (and their colleagues) urged on the City Staff to spend lots of billable hours on the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, figuring out precisely how to implement it, studying its implications.  Hundreds of hours in citizen volunteer time was brought to bear on the formulation of the Plan in general and Horton Street specifically by the City's Bike Committee at the behest of Ms Davis and Mr Brinkman.  By Tuesday, the two Council members had run out of stalling options.  The Council had to finally vote to implement required traffic calming measures for the street as called for in the Plan they certified in 2013.
And they both voted NO, feigning ignorance about what they were voting on and implying the Plan is somehow too radical and extreme.
Councilwoman Nora Davis
"I'm confused about what
we're doing.
We're going to make people
ride a bike?"

Agenda Revealed
The clownish theatrics of Davis/Brinkman Tuesday night was a ploy. We think these two cowardly Council members never had any intention of allowing a bike boulevard for Horton Street and they've just been stalling for time all these years hoping for a three vote majority to finally kill it in the end.  Indeed, they both expressed desire to stall the vote again on Tuesday, citing need to continue studying the Plan.  But the other Council members finally had heard enough apparently and the latest iteration of the Davis/Brinkman stalling gambit was overridden.

The business sector, the self admitted raison d'etre for Davis & Brinkam have kept up a constant background chorus against the Horton Street Bike Boulevard especially Wareham Development and the two faithful servants have done their best to forward business interests but in the end, they simply ran out the clock.

Council Candidate
John Bauters

"We have to be practical."

Emeryville is a shopping 
and jobs center and the 
Horton Street Bike Blvd 
isn't compatible he says.
Too bad for him the in-commuting 
workers and shoppers aren't 
allowed to vote in our elections.
Perhaps as a demonstration meant to show Emeryville residents how close was the bullet dodged in the last election when they rejected him, recent Council hopeful John Bauters put in his two cents calling for "realism"in the Horton Street Bike Boulevard debate.  He went on to explain that the Bike Plan provisions for reducing traffic volume on Horton Street should be rescinded. Throwing in with the Chamber of Commerce and outgoing Councilman Kurt Brinkman, Mr Bauters reminded the Council that people come to Emeryville to jobs and to shop and that's who we need to build our city for, not the residents.  He noted Horton Street should be kept clear for cut-through traffic for shoppers wanting to bypass more crowded streets.  He spoke to the need to increase the efficiency of vehicle traffic, not to decrease it as a bike boulevard would do.  There's already lot's of traffic he said and these workers and shoppers have a "patience threshold" and any increase in the frustration of drivers is unwarranted.  "We'd like people to ride bicycles but we have to be practical" he said.

We thank Councilwoman Ruth Atkin for sticking by her campaign pledge to improve biking in Emeryville and serving as the swing vote on the side of bicycling in our town.  And good governance.

The horribly cynical vote by the Binkman & Davis duo though is a fitting last tribute to the dark force that is Kurt Brinkman on our City Council.  After nine years, as Mr Brinkman readies his departure in December, we are relieved the reign of this dark force on our Council is finally coming to an end.  Going forward, we urge Councilwoman Davis, left without a second, to get with the program.  Emeryville residents want safe bicycling here.  They want the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.  They should have what they want.  They're going to get it despite the nine years of procrastinating by their decision makers.  Justice delayed is justice denied but at least we're finally going to have justice.  As Councilwoman Jennifer West indicated Tuesday night, it's time to finally get moving on the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Emery Secondary School to be Kicked Out of Facility

Oakland may now be breathing down Emery's neck.  Oakland's Santa Fe Elementary School, along Emeryville's border on Adeline Street, is being considered for re-opening as an Oakland elementary school after Emery High School leaves the site, bound for its new home in Emeryville in December 2015.  Emery has been renting the former Oakland elementary school to temporarily house its high school since 2013.  The shuttering of Santa Fe was part of a program of school closures orchestrated by former Oakland Schools Superintendent Tony Smith years ago.  Mr Smith also was Superintendent at Emery before Oakland.  Oakland Unified renegotiated its original three year lease with Emery, charging Emery an extra $250,000 for the fall 2015 semester after Emery indicated it would not make it's July 2015 deadline to complete the new high school at the Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL) on San Pablo Avenue.  The original July 2015 deadline will not be met because Emery was almost a year late in starting it's ECCL project.
From 'Oakland North':

Neighborhood group fights to re-open Oakland’s Santa Fe Elementary

Emery Secondary School, at 915 54th Street, is located at what used to be Santa Fe Elementary School.
Emery Secondary School, at 915 54th Street, is located at what used to be Santa Fe Elementary School.
Megan Low paced up Adeline Street in North Oakland with a stack of yellow flyers in hand.
This was not her first time flyering in the Santa Fe neighborhood, and by now she has the routine down cold: House by house, she climbs stairs to front doors and slips a flyer under the door or between the metal bars. Sometimes she rings the doorbell. Sometimes she does not. Sometimes people answer. Sometimes they do not.
“I graduated from Santa Fe,” one man said to Low during this neighborhood run, on a Wednesday afternoon, through the door of an apartment on 55th Street. “I wish you a lot of luck.”
Low, whose own 3-year-old son will be kindergarten-aged in two years, thanked him and walked away, carrying the stack of remaining yellow flyers with the words “Help Bring Back Our School” plastered at the top of the page.
Underneath those words, each flyer displayed a headshot of new Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Superintendent Antwan Wilson. Members of the Santa Fe Community Association & Neighbors (Santa Fe CAN) Education Committee, an organization of about three dozen people, are meeting with Wilson Thursday to present their case to re-open Santa Fe Elementary School.
The group wants the school re-opened, say advocates like Low, so neighborhood kids do not have to cross busy streets to attend nearby elementary schools, to have a place for community meetings and to not have to face long wait lists for charter schools or pay private school tuition.
“Yeah, it’s going to take some trust and faith and an investment,” Low said in a recent interview at Earthly Coffee in North Oakland. “But we believe that it’s an investment that will pay off to make it a financially solvent school with full enrollment.”
The OUSD Board of Education voted to close Santa Fe Elementary in October 2011, citing low attendance by neighborhood families. Since then, OUSD has leased the property—at 915 54th Street, right at the Oakland-Emeryville border—to the Emery Unified School District (EUSD). Emery Secondary School, which enrolls about 200 students and covers grades 9 through 12, has moved in while its own location is under construction. Last month, the OUSD Board of Education voted to extend the lease to the Emeryville district through the end of 2015; and to increase the rent for the total three-year lease time from $1.5 million to $1.75 million.
Jody London, OUSD board director for the district that includes the Santa Fe site, said that since the school’s closure and consolidation with nearby OUSD schools, such as Sankofa, Peralta, Emerson and others, these schools have seen their finances stabilize because they are now receiving more funding based on a larger student population.
“I actually wanted to keep a school in the San Pablo corridor,” London said. “But it was very hard to justify keeping Santa Fe when so few families were choosing it for their children.”
When Santa Fe was considered an option for closure in 2011, London said that of the 400 K-5 aged kids in its attendance area, only 125 were attending Santa Fe. But Low counters that the district is considering numbers not reflective of the growth in the neighborhood, especially the potential growth before December 2015 when the current lease expires.
When London and former acting superintendent Gary Yee met with the Santa Fe CAN Education Committee earlier this year, London told the group that if it were to re-open Santa Fe, the district would have to be sure that this did not destabilize Emerson’s and Sankofa’s finances. There would also need to be 400 kids committed to attending Santa Fe, London wrote in an email.
“Do I re-open Santa Fe at the expense of Emerson or Sankofa?” London said.
Since Santa Fe has been closed, the number of K-5 aged children in the neighborhood has risen, said Low, a member of the Santa Fe CAN Education Committee. That number could continue to rise until the lease with EUSD expires, creating the opportunity to re-open Santa Fe Elementary.
Emery Secondary School’s former site, located at 1100 47th Street, is under construction. The site was demolished and is being rebuilt to house two schools in the EUSD: Emery Secondary School and Anna Yates Elementary School. There are no plans for Emery Secondary to stay at its leased Oakland location after construction at the old site is complete, according to Lisa Taymuree, the superintendent’s assistant for EUSD. After Emery Secondary School moves out, there is a possibility that an OUSD charter school, magnet school or language immersion school could move in, London said, though the decision has not been made.
With the closing of Santa Fe, the 94608 ZIP code does not contain a single public elementary school, said Low, who has lived in the neighborhood for five years and hopes to enroll her son at Santa Fe if it is re-opened as an Oakland school. There are a handful of charter schools in the area, and a few private schools, but often these institutions have a long wait list or require a deposit on tuition. Low said that re-opening the Santa Fe site as an Oakland charter school would be “better than nothing,” as long as the neighborhood has access to the site, in terms of facilities and enrollment of neighborhood children.
The closest public elementary schools to the old Santa Fe site are Sankofa Academy, Peralta Elementary and Emerson Elementary. But sending kids to these schools creates a safety issue, Low said, since Santa Fe neighborhood children have to cross busy arterial streets such as Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Shattuck Avenue or Telegraph Avenue to get to those schools.
The group heard London’s argument from outgoing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan when about twenty members met with her in the library of the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) one Sunday afternoon last month. Quan suggested the group come up with the “magic number” of about 300 potential students to support the parents’ case.
London said the district is under a lot of pressure from charter schools to provide them with facilities. Under the terms of the voter-approved Proposition 39, known as the School Facilities Local Vote Act of 2000, all California school districts are obligated to provide approved charters with facilities. London said the Charter School Association has sent letters to OUSD threatening to sue if approved charters are not provided with facilities.
“They’re definitely looking at the Santa Fe site,” London said.
Families with children in the Santa Fe area are opting out of the next closest schools, like Sankofa, because of their distance from the Santa Fe neighborhood. Low said that if parents were going to drive their kids to school, they would likely enroll them in a better school in Berkeley or Emeryville. To do this, parents must file for an Inter-District Transfer permit, which does not guarantee the student will be accepted into the other district.
Although a decision will not be made during Thursday’s meeting with Wilson, the CAN members are still excited, Low said as she walked down Adeline Street toward Lois the Pie Queen, a smaller stack of flyers now in her hands. The members have been collecting signatures since the neighborhood’s National Night Out party on August 5. Now they have 170 letters signed and addressed to Wilson, and will hand-deliver them to him at the meeting.
“We’re really hoping it’s the start of an ongoing discussion with the Superintendent for him to take this in a really serious direction and talk to us about ways we can collaborate,” Low said.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

RULE: Resident Activist Group Supplants Chamber of Commerce as Premier Emeryville Power Base

RULE Sweeps Election
Historic Council Majority Shift
Residents In, 
Developers/Businesses Out

News Analysis/Opinion
As ballots are being finished counted in the Emeryville election just passed, one organization, the community activist group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE), has emerged as the clear representative of the resident's interests here having endorsed every winner: both winning Council seats, all three School Board seats, and the hotly contested Measures U&V.  RULE even endorsed a winning candidate only tangentially connected to Emeryville; new State Assemblyman elect Tony Thurman, giving RULE a perfect record of winning endorsements this year, a proverbial run on the table.  But even as the historic election clearly shows how RULE has been prescient, its finger on the pulse of Emeryville,  the organization has been under attack recently, derided as somehow nefarious; made up of "anti-developer ideologues" and a "foaming-at-the-mouth radical left wing organization", charges notable for how far removed they are from the reality of the election outcome.
2009 Rule Sponsored
Town Hall Meeting

More than 100 showed up for
a Community Benefits Agreement
at the Bay Street Mall expansion proposal.

The election results make it clear, what RULE wants the average Emeryville resident wants and that is to create a livable town for ourselves.  And that makes RULE about as center of the road as it gets.  Despite all the name calling, the charges of being too left wing, too radical, RULE as it turns out is only left when viewed from the perspective of the non-voting Chamber of Commerce and their developer/business proxies.  RULE, the election tells us, is left wing radical only insofar as average Emeryville residents are left wing radicals; only as left and radical as wanting a nice place for residents to live in is left and radical.

So why the uptick in all this anti-resident, anti-RULE hostility?  We think a little post election light shining on RULE and its relationship with its would be countervailing force of the Chamber of Commerce is in order.

RULE members themselves are clear about who RULE is and its role in the conflict between the two competing camps, "Emeryville has always been controlled by people who don't live here.  Developers, corporations, big business have run roughshod over the city for decades, with the blessing of the city's top planners and managers, who don't live here, the leaders of our Chamber of Commerce, who don't live here, and a City Council that puts business interests before everything else," said Lillian Schroth, RULE co-founder and editor of The Secret News.  "RULE is about changing all that.  RULE's goal is to put the power in the hands of the people, the residents, where it belongs."

Modern Emeryville has been shaped in a cauldron with these two competing adjunct powers: the exclusive Chamber of Commerce, representing business/developer interests versus the open to all and democratic RULE, representing the resident's interests.  The two groups interface with City Hall by helping elect City Council members of their liking and by lobbying for policy friendly to their interests.  This twin-pole power sharing relationship has been up until now, asymmetrical; the Chamber of Commerce has permanently elected and held the critical three vote majority of Council members and as a consequence has had far more clout in shaping our town, with RULE only serving to elect a stubborn minority of resident friendly Council members over the years.  This condition delivered us the town as it is and it's responsible for our reputation of being a developer and business friendly locus.

The asymmetry is manifest in both our built environment and in our municipal code.
RULE co-sponsored the
Woodfin Hotel boycott
A march stretched from the
hotel to City Hall, the largest protest
in Emeryville history.
Most of what you see when you look around Emeryville is the constructed expression of the will of the Chamber/developer nexus; the low slung suburban style shopping malls, the all rental studio and one bedroom drive-in drive-out apartment buildings and the lowest ratio of park and open space to residents of any city in the East Bay.   As of now, there is very little that can be identified as RULE delivered infrastructure; a park here, a locally serving worker owned bakery there, some funny purple signs and lines of paint on asphalt directing bicycles.

The power of the Chamber of Commerce is also manifest in Emeryville's municipal code with it's extreme deference to developers and businesses.  One only needs to look to our radically business friendly tax code to see this; business impact fees set so low that residents have to take up the slack in the form of City Hall subsidies, to ultra low business license tax rates, to our unprecedented and regressive business tax cap which allows Emeryville's biggest business to pay at an even lower rate (at the expense of our smaller businesses).

But all this, as they say, is about to change (business taxes already have begun to change).
After this last election day, the long-standing paradigm of an entrenched and strong Chamber of Commerce business/developer advocacy and a marginal and weak RULE resident advocacy has been flipped.  With RULE having secured a 3-2 majority on the Council in the election, Emeryville will now be governed by progressives for the first time in its 118 year history.

RULE has never had the money to fund their candidates like the Chamber of Commerce has but RULE does have the advantage of representing what the residents actually want.  The Chamber always has a heavy lift convincing residents of their 'trickle down' theory of resident benefit; the idea that if we put developers in the drivers seat, let them have their way, somehow it'll all work out to our advantage.  It's the "win-win" argument so often promulgated by the developers.  Nice things, things the residents want "won't pencil out" they say but bear with us, it'll end up as a "win-win".  After the November 4th election, the lift to make that sound reasonable just got heavier for the Chamber of Commerce.
RULE endorsed
Councilwoman Jennifer West

Joined RULE members at
the Woodfin Hotel protest

First They Ignore You...
For years RULE operated at the margins, winning a Council seat here and there, hosting a town hall meeting, pushing for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) with Bay Street mall developer Madison Marquette.  Slowly the group became emboldened as it chalked up victories.  This year, RULE finally shifted and employed the tactic used to great advantage virtually every election by the right wing; the slate of candidates.

The shift is not something those on the right have taken lightly. The blog the E'Ville Eye, normally content reporting on Emeryville boosterism, restaurants and posting crime statistics, took the opportunity during the election to discredit RULE, panning the idea of a slate, implying it's somehow nefarious and out-of-bounds.  RULE's shift to running a slate of candidates, what blog editor Rob Arias saw as an outrage, was enough for him to tell his readers to voluntarily give up one of their votes on election day.  Mr Arias suggested his readers "bullet vote" for non-RULE candidate John Bauters to counter the RULE slate of Dianne Martinez & Scott Donahue.  Readers were urged to give up their own agency by relinquishing their franchise in order to help Mr Bauters.

In his zeal to discredit RULE, Mr Arias went as far as to tacitly charge the group with fraud because he has determined RULE is not really a community activist group but rather a clandestine Political Action Committee (PAC), a money dispersing political organization that is required to register with the State.  Mr Arias' charge against RULE is baseless but it's interesting to note that the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce actually does operate a PAC known as EmPAC that bundles campaign contributions for City Council candidates favorable to developers and businesses.

The stories piled on from the E'Ville Eye before the election made RULE seem secretive, too anti-developer and too radical for Emeryville.  Mr Arias finally revealed his pro-developer stance when he warned his readers of anti-developer "ideologues" loose in Emeryville, something Mr Bauters, who calls himself a pragmatist, surely is not: "This election may represent the end of what I've referred to as 'The Developer Era' of Emeryville politics, an era divided by ideologues that contend our city has sold out to developers ...[versus] self described pragmatists that think it was a necessary measure to rebuild our city..." Mr Arias said.  That would be unrealistic and dogmatic ideologues with their heads in the clouds that want to build a livable city for the residents versus the common sense pragmatists who believe it's best to put the developers in the driver's seat and let the good tidings trickle down.  The use of the pejorative word "ideologues" by Mr Arias suggests the end of the" developer era" paradigm he describes would be represented by the election of the RULE slate of Martinez/Donahue he suggests, leaving Emeryville unable to rebuild, as it needs to do.  
It would appear Rob Arias is none too fond of RULE.  Indeed, one anonymous source told the Tattler, "Rob wishes RULE would just go away instead of [the retiring] Kurt Brinkman." The anonymous source acknowledges the distinction between RULE and Councilman Brinkman, who is on the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce. 

Early in the election, RULE was a topic of discussion City Council candidate John Bauters had with the Tattler.  Asked why he hadn't sought out RULE, a community activist group that ostensibly would dovetail with his pro-community empowerment and progressive views, Mr Bauters said, "I was told by several people RULE is a foaming at the mouth radical leftist organization" and he explained that's why he has stayed clear of the organization.
RULE  Co-Founder
Judy Timmel
We represent the views 
of many residents.
RULE co-founder Judy Timmel isn't buying that assessment.  Speaking to the mainstream nature of RULE as revealed by the election, she told the Tattler, "Progressive values are the norm, not the exception in the East Bay.  It doesn't make sense that RULE would be portrayed as radical when we represent the views of so many Emeryville residents."

The right wing in Emeryville has long trashed RULE, albeit with greater intensity recently.  We know why they do it.  They do it because they're afraid of RULE.  They do it because RULE works for Emeryville resident's interests, not developers or businesses.  RULE serves as a vexing counterpoint to the right wing 'trickle down' meme.  Like the right wing elite everywhere, they want to keep the charade of the illegitimacy of people power going as long as they can because it's so profitable for them to do it.  They had a very good run in Emeryville.  But now it's developers/businesses out & residents in- sorry guys.
The results of the last election has increased the legitimacy of the resident part of the Emeryville political calculus and put all claims of RULE's illegitimacy to rest.