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Monday, May 30, 2016

Both the City & the Bay Street Mall Claims Ownership of Emeryville Street

Showdown With City Looms as Bay Street Mall Claims Ownership of Street

Mall Reversal: Citizens Ok'ed to Park on 'Their' Street 
(For Now)

Who owns Bay Street?  The answer to that straight forward question depends on whom you ask.  If you ask the City of Emeryville, they'll say the people own the street but if you ask the owners of the Bay Street Mall, they'll tell you it's private property; they own it.
As a result of a story the Tattler reported last Monday regarding the Bay Street Mall issuing tickets to overnight parked cars on Bay Street, the corporation that owns the mall has taken down signs disallowing non-shoppers from using the street but is asserting this has been done only as a act of good will and that they are under no legal obligation to allow non-shoppers to park on the street because the corporation owns the street.
In a stunningly bold May 24th letter to Emeryville's City Attorney, the Bay Street Mall is asserting since they are "paying property taxes for the ownership of the streets", they own Bay Street, not the City of Emeryville, a claim refuted by City Attorney Michael Guina.  The mall is also asserting their right to disallow parking after 10 PM, the cut off time for metered parking, a direct conflict with what Mr Guina says.

Jen Nettles
Manager Bay Street Mall
The conflict of ownership claims promises a showdown; mall manager Jen Nettles maintaining they will continue to disallow cars from parking after 10 PM while the City of Emeryville guarantees drivers the right to park there overnight.  The conflict also has ramifications that will echo to the incipient Marketplace development on Shellmound Street with its similar arrangement of public streets and private sidewalks hammered out between that developer and City Hall last year.

The divergent assertions between the private corporation and the City have come as a result of an unusual agreement made in 2000 as the mall broke ground.  The mall requested and was granted ownership of the sidewalks along Bay Street while the City retained ownership of the street itself, according to the City Attorney.  Madison Marquette Corporation, the owner of the mall at the time had interest in assuring its tenants that protests or other civil actions would not be possible as a result of the corporate ownership of the sidewalks.  This arrangement has proved valuable to the mall owing to the high level of national chain stores located there, with their often dubious labor and environmental practices.

The letter to the City Attorney included
an Alameda County Tax Assessment map as
proof of corporate ownership of the street.
Ms Nettles refutes claims the mall security officers are issuing 'notices to pay' for after hours parked cars on Bay Street, stating instead only warnings are being issued.  The Tattler reported Monday that tickets are being issued (by either security officers and/or Emeryville police) based on interviews with Tattler informants and ticket writing security officers themselves.
Ms Nettles agreed to remove signs stating parking on Bay Street was for "customers only" regardless of her claim of property rights inherent with the corporate street ownership only as a good neighbor gesture to the City.  The signs were taken down on Tuesday.

In the meanwhile a line is being drawn in the sand; the "Bay Street [Mall] is the present title owner of record for the property and the street" Ms Nettles informed the City in her May 24th letter, a contradiction of what has been directly asserted since 2000 by former City Manager Pat O'Keefe, former Chief of Police Ken James, former City Attorney Michael Biddle and current Attorney Michael Guina.  However, regardless of the numerous claims of City ownership of the street and any documents the City might have to satisfy such claims, a legal construct known as adverse possession could grant the Bay Street Mall ownership of the street by sheer dint of its (uncontested) possession over time.

The Tattler will closely follow this inauspicious evolving story.


  1. I'm willing to bet the street is owned by the mall. This sounds like more Mike Biddle incompetency.

  2. There are laws that protect public rights of way... even if it was privately built, the fact that it has been used by the public without interference gives the city good standing to prove that the street is in the public domain, and not private property.