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Saturday, May 14, 2016

'Safe Routes to School'? Maybe, But Not After the 'Flashing Beacon' Lightbulbs Burn Out

Q: How Many Public Works Employees Does it Take to Screw In a Light Bulb?

A: More Than 13

Emeryville City Hall tells us they care about children.  But how much do they really care?  They care enough to apply for a $500,000 grant to install crosswalk flashing warning lights as part of a "Safe Routes to School" federal program.  Unfortunately, they don't care enough to change the lightbulbs when they burn out.  Changing lightbulbs is not a task the 13 employees at Emeryville's Public Works Department is adroit enough to handle.
Safe Routes to Schools?
43rd Street at San Pablo Avenue-
The existing in-pavement flashers are
being removed but the flashing sign
beacons will remain.
Safe....until the light bulbs
burn out.

After securing the grant money, the City is directing the work now starting on three intersections along San Pablo Avenue at 43rd, 45th and 47th Streets in anticipation of the eventual completion of the Center of 'Community' Life at 47th and San Pablo.  These are the crossings children will be using to get to school and button activated flashing beacon signs are the central part of the scope of work.

The problem is we've seen this story before and it doesn't end well...
Simple maintenance and follow through is not big at the Public Works Department.  Consider the crosswalk at 43rd Street and San Pablo.  Ten years ago, anguished parents appealed to the City to help children safely cross that busy street near Anna Yates Elementary School.  The City responded with a $20,000 program to install button activated flashing beacons on signs and in asphalt pavement embedded lights at that intersection; a vast improvement.
(On a side note, now, only the flashing beacon signs will remain at the 43rd Street crossing; the pavement embedded beacons are being removed as part of the new Safe Routes to Schools program, leaving the claims of improved safety in question, at least for that intersection.)
The last flashing beacon light bulb finally burned out a couple of years ago at the San Pablo Avenue/43rd Street crosswalk leaving parents and citizens attempting the traverse at the mercy of busy California State Route 123 (aka San Pablo Avenue) drivers.  Complaints to the Public Works Department over the years about burned out lightbulbs have fallen on deaf ears, all the hyperbolic talk of child welfare and safe routes to schools notwithstanding.

We're not sure why the Emery Unified School District was so insistent to place our new elementary school directly on the busiest street in Emeryville; San Pablo Avenue with its 1600 vehicles per hour speeding through these intersections, but now we're stuck with it.  Presumably, with the new flashing beacons provided by the federal government, children will be able to safely cross (so says the School District) until the light bulbs start burning out.
Unfortunately again, the safety of our children is placed in the hands of the can't-be-bothered-to-change-lightbulbs Public Works Department and its Director Maurice Kaufman.  Too bad we can't get the feds to commit to changing the bulbs...then maybe we really would have safe routes to schools.  All these new lightbulbs being installed is going to be too much for Maurice Kaufman to handle.

How many Public Works employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?  We wish it were merely a bad joke.  The actual truthful answer to that question; more than 13, isn't funny.
Vexing for the likes of Emeryville
Now what do we do?


  1. Since San Pablo Avenue is State Highway 123 I'm pretty sure it would fall under Caltrans' Responsibility to repair the lights unless maybe the City cut some kind of deal to take care of the problems. Not sure though?

    1. Judging by the last ten years with flashing beacon signs on San Pablo Avenue in Emeryville, you'd have to conclude it's Emeryville's responsibility. City Hall has admitted as much.

  2. I've been asking maurice kaufman for eight years to fix the sidewalk on the south side of 62nd street, the third tree from hollis, and I'm still waiting. the sidewalk has narrowed down to about 12 inches due to the uplifting of the sidewalk; wide enough for one person but not for wheelchairs or strollers. have patience, emeryville.