Search The Tattler

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Councilwoman Jennifer West Steps Down

Jennifer West
After five years, starting this month, Emeryville is conducting city council meetings without Jennifer West at the dais; the esteemed one term councilwoman has moved on (although she still lives with her family in Emeryville).   Arguably, the least controversial city council member, Ms West has been Emeryville's most beloved and effective council member in years.  What made Jennifer so effective?  The Tattler caught up with Ms West to get her take: 

Q:  What's your overall impression of your days on the Council?  What made you effective?
A:  I loved serving on the Emeryville City Council these past five years.  I think my service has changed the tone of discourse in Emeryville from one of antagonism to cooperation and partnership.  We can get a lot done that way.  I ask questions and invite all public to participate, sharing information openly.

Q:  Was there a vote or votes in particular you look back on with pride? 
A:  Hiring Sabrina Landreth was the biggest and most important action during my five years. I see her time as the city manager and leader bringing a new level of professionalism and harmony to our city government.  I trust her to support the staff and keep expectations high. I think she approaches negotiations and decision making fairly, and carries out the policy directed by council. 
Even in her first year we accomplished a lot, from updating the Capitol Improvement Program (CIP) to passing a balanced budget, putting in place new development impact fees to support affordable housing, parks and transportation projects to putting a charter city measure on the ballot.

There were also some quiet victories, like asking enough questions about a loan forgiveness deal with Madison Marquette to make it just go away, never brought back by staff after the Oversight Board sent it back to Council.
And keeping the tall trees in Temescal Creek Park where the hawks nest.  Adding bike fix it stations around town.  Arranging for some city staff to get hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to use, learning the benefits of the hydrogen fueling station we host in Emeryville. Getting noticing improved to include more residents, more property owners.  I think the issues that I raised are being taken seriously by staff, and have become part of the conversation, from outsider to status quo.

Q:  Were there any committees or regional boards you sat on as City Council member that were particularly effective in your mind?
A:  I truly enjoyed serving on the Alameda County Waste Management Authority, Stopwaste (as President of the Board in 2013).  Working directly with other elected officials, with very different constituencies than Emeryville, was eye opening. While on Stopwaste, we passed a plastic bag ordinance that dramatically reduced plastic bags in the county (and in the storm water system), passed an ordinance requiring commercial and multi-family residential recycling and organics collection, passed a benchmarking fee that will give concrete data to residents to help all of us step up our game in terms of diverting waste from landfills, and passed a Household Hazardous Waste fee that will allow our county HHW program expand in hours and locations.

Q:   Were there votes you made that in retrospect now seem ill advised, or votes that you were on the losing side that ring out?
A:   There have been a few decisions that I have struggled with over my term, including the Emeryville Center of Community Life decisions and the Transit Center development on Horton Street.  I see many benefits from both development projects, but they both fall short of where I thought they should be to really contribute more to the community… They were both in the works before I was on the council, along with a lot of other residential developments that were under the “old” way of doing things, and I did not successfully transform these projects when they came up for “extensions” of permits.  For the residential projects, I wanted more family-sized units, greater affordability, more owner occupied units, and more connection between the units and the wider community, not just separated, gated communities.  For the community projects, ECCL and Transit Center, I would have liked to see more bold contributions, something really innovative and cutting edge.  I think the community will be proud of the ECCL in the end, and that it will help the district with a full service school that will support the whole community. 
I wish that ECCL was on a larger site with a field that will really accommodate a K-12 school. In the General Plan, the AC Transit yard is a large park with playing fields.  I hope that day will come!
 In 2013, the Council directed staff to put together a ballot measure that would raise the business license tax and remove the cap.  Staff did so, and after the time had passed that citizens would have been able to collect signatures to put a ballot measure on the ballot with those parameters, the council changed its tune on a 3-2 vote to keep the cap in place (raising it).  It was disappointing.
I think that bike/ped connections are critical, and know they will increase safety and eyes on the path if they are done right.  These bike/ped paths are our future connectors to make getting around town without a car a viable alternative for everybody, not just the brave souls who bike down San Pablo.  We have three on the general plan map that I failed to bring to fruition: the ECCL Path between 47th and 53rd west of San Pablo (there is no way through that super block for the public), the EBI Path between 45th and 47th east of San Pablo (again, no other way through that super block), and the one that would connect Doyle St and 55th with 53rd between Hollis and San Pablo known as the Pickleworks Path (there is no other way through that super block).  One of the best predictors of people walking in a location is the fine-grained grid for easy connectivity.  Emeryville still has a long way to go!

Q:   Emeryville is laced with Bike Boulevards as prescribed by our General Plan.  Up until now, these Boulevards have not constrained car use in any meaningful way.  That is poised now to change with lots of new driving residents coming to our town.  Our streets are going to be contested spaces with ever greater frequency.  Horton Street is first in this regard.  What can you say about this critical bike corridor?
A:  On Horton’s bike boulevard, I support the Bike Plan to put in Level 4 traffic calming now and if that doesn’t adequately reduce the numbers in one or two years, Level 5 diverters.  I think the community really responded this fall when we asked for feedback, and the general consensus of comments I heard was to follow the plan and move forward incrementally with Level 4 first.  It makes sense, and since we have the grant to design level 4 traffic calming now, and the time to look at Level 5 before Sherwin Williams goes in, it is perfectly aligned with these projects.  I think we can implement the Bike Plan with public input.


  1. emeryville has always had traffic impact fees and school fees to be paid by the developers. trouble is, they were never enforced, like most other rules, laws and ordinances here. perhaps with the new city manager and the election of martinez and donahue, they will be.

    and what has happened to the measure j oversight committee? membership has dropped now to five from 17. the project director, director of community outreach and administrative assistant have all quit. before he was terminated in november the school district's chief business officer provided me with the paid invoices for measure j on request. maybe this is why he was terminated? who is the new cbo now? and despite repeated requests, I am no longer receiving agendas, minutes or records of paid invoices.

    and very mysteriously, my current property tax statement shows taxes due on measure a, despite my turning 65 in 2009 and submitting annual application for exemption.

    1. That's quite the litany of government dysfunction. As you probably know, the Tattler has called for a new post election paradigm of accountability, starting with a city-wide audit. I'll make sure this gets forwarded to the new Council members.