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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Sherwin Williams Project: Violation of Public Trust on Labor Rights

 City of Emeryville Screws Construction Workers at Sherwin Williams Site

Dirty Double Deal as Workers Paid Substandard Wages in Our Name

News Analysis/Opinion

Conspicuous on Horton Street at the Sherwin Williams construction site recently is a large three dimensional representation of veiled black death and a huge thumbs down sign among other signs decrying unfair labor practices.  It's an embarrassment for our town as workers very visibly demonstrate a labor dispute with two sub-contracting firms building the Sherwin Williams project, something the City of Emeryville promised would not happen when this project was approved.  The two  firms, Steelwave Development and Lusardi Construction, have been cited by the demonstrating union workers at the project site over the last few weeks as reneging on the promise that the project be constructed with prevailing union wages that the City of Emeryville had guaranteed. 

The fact that the Sherwin Williams project, the largest construction project in years in Emeryville, is being built in violation of the agreement and so hurting workers in the community is bad for labor of course but the breach of trust violates the City's word as far as the local citizens are concerned too.  The people of Emeryville were promised this project would not be built by oppressing the workers building it.  Had we been told substandard wages would be paid by the subcontractors, we might well have protested this project.  But the City of Emeryville wanted this project to be built and so to get us on board, they assured us this would not happen.  They bought community peace with the assurance the workers would be paid prevailing union wages.  

Now we come to find out it was all a sham by the City of Emeryville.  This Sherwin Williams project is being constructed at the expense of local workers and its being done in our name.  

We admonish the two firms, Steelwave LLC and Lusardi Construction for screwing their workers in our city of course.  But these are profit driven corporations who can be counted on to always do what they think they can get away with as they seek to maximize their profits.  Corporations lie, cheat and steal as far as the law allows; that's to be expected.  So as far as their honor goes, we appeal to them to do the right thing.   But we're not holding our breath they're going to anything but continue to screw their workers as long as they feel they can get away with it.  And they know they can get away with it in a push over pro-development city like Emeryville.

All the parties concerned; Steelwave LLC, Lusardi Construction, the general contractor Lennar Development and Mayor Dianne Martinez as well as the City of Emeryville refused to comment on this.  We expect silence from the contractors but the City of Emeryville has to behave in a transparent manner.   This is public policy.  We want to know what City Hall is going to do about this.

We're calling out the City of Emeryville for this dirty double deal, screwing workers in our name.  We say the City has to make this right.  They made their promise to us, the resident citizens of this town, and now they have to step in and fix this.   

A city that loves developers is willing to screw workers. 
Emeryville promised us this wouldn't happen as long as we supported this project.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Guest Column: John Fricke on Emeryville's New Bike/Ped Bridge

The Long and Winding Road to the Bay Street Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge

by John Fricke

Guest Columnist

The pedestrian/bicycle bridge to Bay Street shopping mall will open December 3rd, this Friday evening.  It's been a long time coming.  Formally proposed in Emeryville’s 1993 General Plan, the bridge idea languished until 2002 when the City paid an engineering firm to produce a rough design, which began for me a yearlong effort to torpedo the flawed design, and promote a more functional design.  

By 2003, I had become very familiar with Emeryville’s streets and sidewalks while behind the wheel of a double stroller occupied by my twin daughters.  

Nina Criswell & Lane Fricke
in the Emeryville City
Council chambers

Then (as now), Emeryville city government prioritized the car over pedestrian and bicycle access.  On a typical walk from my house with Lane and Nina in the stroller, we would risk life and limb crossing San Pablo Avenue (or wait an interminable period of time at a traffic signal).  Various routes north (between the railroad tracks and San Pablo) were pleasant enough.  But I heard rumors that there was a place not far to the west with a gorgeous mile-long path along the water.  One need only traverse railroad tracks, and then a ten-lane freeway.  But how to get there on foot?  

The 40th Street bridge, with its four lanes of speeding vehicle traffic, was not the best environment for facilitating a nap.  In 1997, the Emeryville city government had produced at the train station a pedestrian bridge with elevator and stairs, but no ramp. 


Prison watch towers in Emeryville?
Setting aside for the moment the neo-prison-watch-tower design and the placing of the elevator doors out of view from the street, the functionality for someone with a stroller (or wheelchair) depended on the whim of the elevator vandals, and the swiftness of the City to repair the broken elevator.  (Suffice it to say that Emeryville city government appears unfamiliar with the US postal service motto.)  Quite a number of times, Nina, Lane, and I would hold our noses going up the elevator on one side, only to be left waiting at the altar for the down elevator to arrive at the other end of the bridge.

Apparently, the folks in Berkeley responsible for designing the I-80 ped-bike bridge took note of the folly of the elevator/stairs design in Emeryville.  Their bridge design was all ramp, no moving parts.  In 2002, five years after Emeryville cut the ribbon at the prison watch tower, the Berkeley bridge over I-80 opened to critical acclaim.  

Berkeley I-80 ped/bike bridge

So what did we, pedestrians and stroller passengers in Emeryville, receive a year later from the high-priced engineers that the City hired to design a second bridge across the RR tracks?  Gentle reader, you can see where this is going.  Incredibly, the city manager was so pleased with the engineers’ elevator-stairs bridge design that he asked the firm to produce a large 3-D physical model of the bridge.  

In Hans Christian Andersen’s folktale, The Emperor’s New Clothes, one small child’s revelation is quickly embraced by the crowd, but the emperor will not acknowledge his error.  He walks more proudly than ever.  So, too, in Emeryville.  At the first City Council meeting on the elevator-stairs bridge design, I stated the obvious flaws in its design, and suggested that the design should model Berkeley’s bridge of gradual, open ramps.  Could we learn from Berkeley’s success?  ‘No’, came the answer from city government.  At the next City Council meeting, the city manager presented an alternate design which eliminated the elevators, but added narrow, steep, stacked ramps with sharp turns, and blind spots.  

2003 City commissioned design by Mark Thomas & Co
I realized that to kill this bad idea would take more than stating the obvious.  I looked up the federal regulations regarding spanning railroad tracks and then went to the Bay Street mall with my 100-foot tape measure.  Lo and behold, it would be possible to replicate the Berkeley Bridge ramps’ five-percent slope with a there-and-back ramp configuration (between mall parking garage and RR tracks), while still providing a generous open-ramp width of ten feet.  On the east side, there was plenty of room for a straight-shot ramp to the bridge span.  I produced very rough sketches of an open, gradual, wide ramp design.

In talking up the alternate design with neighbors, it soon became obvious that my hard-to-read sketches weren’t telling a thousand words.  I needed help.

        .                                  .                                 .  

Look! Up in the sky!  Is it a bird?  Is it a plane?  No, it’s Philip Rostonovitch!  

From: Philip Rostonovich Sent: Wednesday, Jun 4, 2003 10:41 AM PDT To: John Fricke Subject: question about Pedestrian bridge designs

Hello John,

My name is Philip.  I'm on the Triangle Neighborhood mailing list.  

You've probably seen me around the neighborhood - big guy, long hair, beard, backpack.

Anyway, long intro short: I'm aware of the recent proceedings about the 

proposed pedestrian bridge, but I'm unsure of its current status.  My reason 

for asking is that I have some new free time (recently laid off), and I 

might be able to contribute some 3D computer graphic renderings.

Perhaps my skills can be applied in some helpful way to this or future endeavours.

Thanks for your time, John.  Let me know if I can still be of help.


Philip Rostonovich

Philip and I went to the site to take photos, and then Philip worked his magic:

These renderings of Philip's told a thousand words.  I met with various groups in Emeryville who endorsed this alternative.  I kept adding neighbors to my email distribution list.  

At the next City Council meeting, several neighbors and I spoke up in favor of the gradual ramp design.  But the emperor kept parading around in his new clothes.  Years later, I was told by someone in the room where it happened that the city manager instructed his city staff members to see to it that my design be undermined.  I was invited to a meeting at city hall with the city engineer, the chief building inspector, and the city’s building code compliance consultant.  Each in turn raised technical objections to my proposed ramp configuration.  I was not good at sketching, but my law degree came in handy in researching the building code, fire code, and RR regulations.  I refuted each of their objections.  

At several City Council meetings throughout 2003, more neighbors advocated for the open, gradual ramp design.  By December’s meeting, the City Council cried uncle.  The bad design was shelved, for lack of funding.  The emperor took his ball and went home.  

Two years later, I was sworn in as a member of the City Council, having included in my campaign platform a promise to fund livability projects like the bridge, the public park at Doyle and 61st streets (now called the Doyle/Hollis Park) and the bike lanes plus traffic calming measures on Adeline Street.  One year later, the Council voted to fund these projects.  I chaired the design committee that selected the engineering firm and the architect, sponsored community meetings, and eventually approved a detailed design that was finally constructed.  

Despite the design-by-committee aphorism, the bridge survived the design process.  My fellow committee members were a pleasure to work with -- they deserve credit:  Ken Bukowksi, Charles Debbas, Brian Donahue, Joseph Mudd (Novartis representative), Tim Doran (Novartis representative who replaced Joseph on the committee), John Scheuerman, Ann Weber, and Cedric Young (Bay Street mall representative).  The city staff member assigned to the committee, Ignacio Dayrit, was excellent.  Lastly, the chief engineer, Mahvash Harms, and the architect, Rick Phillips, were outstanding.  They produced a great bridge.

When I was elected to the City Council on a campaign platform of improving access for pedestrians, bicycles, and public transit riders, I proposed a number of other public works projects to make it easier for future parents with strollers to safely and comfortably walk to the Emeryville Marina from any Emeryville neighborhood.  These proposals included two bridge spans across I-80:  one at Temescal Creek, and another just south of Ashby Avenue.  The Temescal Creek bridge would complement the Bay Street bridge.  (Without a Temescal creek bridge across I-80, pedestrians heading west are still relegated to negotiating the Powell Street freeway interchange to get to the marina.)  For the proposed bridge near Ashby, an additional design committee was formed and held meetings.  When the City Council chose not to fund further design work (over my dissenting vote), the committee was disbanded.  

My daughters are now seniors in college.  I look forward to crossing the new span with them and their brother, Dean, and not having to hold our noses in an elevator.  Maybe someday, we will make it all the way to the Emeryville marina on foot without stepping into the Powell Street vehicle vortex.  

John Fricke is a longtime Emeryville resident, father of three, husband, lawyer, former Chairman of the South Bayfront Bike/Ped Bridge Committee as well as a former member of the Emeryville City Council.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

South Bayfront Bike/Ped Bridge Grand Opening Celebration Slated for December 3rd.

Long Wait For Bike/Ped Bridge Finally Over

Completed Bridge Set to Open December 3rd

More than 25 years after it was first seriously proposed, Emeryville’s second bike/pedestrian bridge over the much cursed and city-bisecting Union Pacific railroad tracks, will finally be opened to the public December 3rd in a gala grand opening public ceremony planned for 6:00 PM.  

Former City Council member and Bridge Committee chair John Fricke, who as an outspoken critic of an early design of the bridge that didn't include bicycles, was outwardly sanguine but more likely sardonic about the December 3rd opening when he told the Tattler dryly, "Good things come to those who wait".

Not just a basic and prosaic over-crossing
Our new $21 million bridge is not without its charms,
even flirting with a sense of the dramatic.

The long awaited opening will finally silence a growing chorus from apprehensive residents about a boondoggle 'impossible bridge' and 'never bridge' and other such epithets.  

As with any large infrastructure project, this bridge, formally known as the South Bayfront Bike/Ped Bridge but called the Bay Street Mall Bridge by some, had its share of setbacks and colliding egos associated with its implementation.  Arguably more than its share.  

Madison Marquette, the Washington DC based developer of the Bay Street Mall, was an early promoter of a bridge at this location.  Seeing better connection for East Emeryville shoppers as a booster to its corporate bottom line, Madison Marquette pushed the City to build the bridge straight into their mall.  The City of Emeryville was listening and its Redevelopment Agency approved $8.4 million in 2003 to construct a pedestrian only bridge with elevators.   Mr Fricke cried foul to that concept, rallying instead for a multi-modal design with stairs for pedestrians and ramps for bikes (and wheelchairs).  Former City Council member Nora Davis and City Manager John Flores however fought against bikes on the bridge, insisting at first ramps not be provided.  Mr Flores, reiterating Ms Davis' concerns about unruly bicyclists, famously stated they represent a "ruffian element".   So Mr Fricke took his bike friendly design idea directly to the people.  The City responded with a ramp design that would have bicyclists dismount at switchback corners that would be too sharp and in conflict with wheelchairs, pedestrians and other bikers. 

The City, buckling to public pressure for a real bike/pedestrian bridge in response to a rising John Fricke who had subsequently been elected in a landslide victory to the City Council, finally appointed him as Chair of a newly commissioned South Bayfront Bike/Ped Bridge Committee in 2008.  Meanwhile, the cost had risen to $12 million and then $13.9 million owing mostly to delays associated with the redesign to accommodate bikes.  Councilwoman Davis and City Manager Flores finally gave up on their insistence on a pedestrian only bridge after they started receiving a lot of public support for Councilman Fricke's pro-bike design.  

The dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency, legal concerns with Union Pacific Railroad and City Council priority drift caused the bridge project to languish for years after Council member Fricke stepped down.   Finally in 2018, then mayor John Bauters, attempting to follow through on a campaign promise to voters, pushed the issue and convinced his colleagues to make the Fricke designed bridge a City priority issue.  By then the price tag had risen substantially and the Council finally signed a construction contract at $21.4 million (not including the eastern 'Horton Landing' approach from Horton Street).

The ballooning cost will likely soon be forgotten however when pedestrians and bikers begin using the long awaited infrastructure.  With this much needed bike/ped connection from East Emeryville to the Bay Street Mall, our town is on the cusp of being able to state with earnestness the oft repeated but heretofore glaringly unrealized proclamation of being a 'connected place'. 

The City will host a parade from City Hall to the bridge starting at 5:30 culminating in a ribbon cutting ceremony at 6:00 (ish) at the bridge followed by a party open to the public at the Bay Street Mall. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Emeryville's Newest Council Member-Elect Involved in Scandal Before Taking Seat

 Emeryville's Newest City Council Member in Hot Water Over Residence Discrepancies 

Was Election Law or Affordable Housing Law Violated?

Newly elected City Council member Courtney Welch is entangled in a scandal over her Emeryville residence, having likely defrauded Emeryville’s affordable housing program or California election law, the Tattler has learned.  Specifically, Council-elect Welch either shared her government subsidized low income apartment with two unauthorized people without permission from and in violation of Emeryville’s Below Market Rate (BMR) housing program or she has helped the two people, her parents, when they signed their names on their voter registration forms falsely claiming they live in her apartment.  

The two bedroom apartment rented by Ms Welch can only accommodate up to four people according to her lease and since her two minor children live with her, two additional people would represent a violation of the City’s BMR stipulations.  Three bedroom units are available at her apartment complex and that would have allowed her parents to move in with her but Ms Welch did not rent one of those.  

Candidate Welch told her campaign Twitter
readers she was having trouble meeting the 
City's BMR income mandates.  If her parents 
lived in her unit and showed any income
at all, that would have to be reported.

Moving to Emeryville from Oakland, Ms Welch registered to vote on June 1st according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters with her parents also registering June 1st at her Emeryville address.  Ms Welch informed the landlord her two children would be living with her but she did not acknowledge anything at the time about her parents moving in.  In addition to renting a three bedroom unit, she would have also been required to submit income documents for her two (parent) housemates according to Emeryville’s BMR program dictates.  If two uncleared people moved into her apartment, that would be a violation of Emeryville’s BMR housing law.

If income from her parents pushed her 
over the disqualifying line, the subsidized 
apartment would have to be given up
to a needy family.
The need to clear people by checking their income is necessary to protect and ensure Emeryville's affordable housing stock is available for needy people.  Uncleared persons can move in on a temporary basis but only for up to one month according to the lease agreement at Ms Welch's apartment complex, a regulation backed up by the City of Emeryville's BMR housing program.

California election law makes it a crime for citizens to knowingly falsify registration documents by registering to vote at a location other than their legal domicile.  Voting in a falsified different election district also constitutes a crime.  In a tweet, Ms Welch’s father claimed to have voted for Courtney on October 14th. 

Many Council election watchers noted how the Council candidate was able to get a hard to come by BMR unit so quickly.  Moving here in June, Ms Welch had already announced her candidacy for the open Council seat  left by Christian Patz in July.   Mr Patz announced his resignation from the Council in May.

In September, the Alameda County Democratic Party announced it would endorse the new Emeryville resident/City Council contender causing some in town to question if that party set her up for the newly opened Emeryville seat.  A young but rising political star in Oakland, Ms Welch may have jumped at the opportunity of an auspicious Emeryville beginning to a political career, open Oakland City Council seats being such a rarified thing.  

From Courtney Welch's Campaign
Twitter Account

To vote in an Emeryville election
you have to live in Emeryville.

With seeming lightning speed, Ms Welch also was accepted on Emeryville’s Housing Committee by our City Council before the election, a fact Courtney conspicuously placed in her campaign literature.  Interestingly, at their June 15th meeting, the Council overlooked the fact that although she missed the deadline for the Housing Committee application, they appointed her anyway even though, in a snub to the Council, she didn’t attend that meeting to answer customary applicant questions.  Housing Committee members subsequently reported Ms Welch only ever attended one committee meeting.

Having won a low turnout November 2nd special election 1033 votes to her contender's 705, Courtney Welch will take her oath of office and become Emeryville’s newest City Council member in December.

Ms Welch was contacted multiple times for comment on this story but she did not respond. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Courtney Welch Wins Council Seat


8:55 PM

Courtney Welch has won the special City Council election today with both precincts reporting.  Council elect Welch replaces Christian Patz who announced last May he would resign his seat.  Ms Welch who is a housing policy director, took 641 votes or 55.35% of the votes over challenger Charlotte Danielsson-Chang who got 517 votes according to the Alameda County registrar of voters.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

City Council Candidates Forum Announced

The League of Woman Voters of Berkeley, Albany, Emeryville announces they are hosting an online candidates forum for the two candidates running for the open seat on the Emeryville City Council at 6:30 pm, Tuesday, October 26, 2021.  It will be a virtual meeting, and the Zoom link will be sent to attendees before the forum.  To register for the free event, visit Eventbrite:

Sunday, September 19, 2021

City Council Special Election 2021: Courtney Welch

  City Council Special Election Questionnaire: 
Courtney Welch

November 2nd, Emeryville voters will decide a replacement for Christian Patz who vacated his City Council seat in June.  This special election asks voters to chose between two candidates, Courtney Welch and Charlotte Danielsson-Chang.  We thank these two democratically minded candidates for running for our City Council.  As you review their candidacies, we think you'll agree both are very qualified to serve.  Be sure to also read Charlotte Danielsson-Chang's responses to these questions HERE.

Charlotte's campaign website is HERE

Courtney's campaign website is HERE

Courtney Welch

According to her campaign website, Courtney is Director of Policy and Communications with the Bay Area Community Land Trust, (BACLT) where she and her team help create permanently affordable housing through cooperatively-run land stewardship projects.

1. Briefly explain what your vision for Emeryville is and how you propose to take us there. 

I envision Emeryville as a place for families and community members to live and thrive.  As a parent, I am very aware of issues that are facing working families, as they are issues that I am facing myself.   Affordable housing and homelessness is one of the most important issues facing all of our communities and an issue that I am prioritizing as part of my campaign.  In addition to housing, I am prioritizing working with fellow council members to make fiscally responsible budget decisions as we navigate the pandemic deficit, equitable public transit accessibility, addressing public safety concerns, and working with Emeryville’s small business community to not just bring businesses here but keep them in the city.   My initial action plan includes:  -Increase the city of Emeryville’s participation in the Alameda County Continuum of Care collaborative to work with neighboring cities and community based organizations to craft comprehensive plans to prevent homelessness, quickly re-house individuals already experiencing homelessness, and address homelessness from multiple angles on both a regional and local level.  
-Develop an effective governance relationship with AC Transit directors and staff to advocate for the appropriate level of transit service Emeryville needs which would include consistent transit assessments to allow for timely adjustments to area service.  -Work alongside business owners, community members, and other council members to implement a rebranding campaign for Emeryville to re-establish ourselves as not just a shopping, tourist, and entertainment destination, but also a desirable and successful location for businesses and explore opportunities to diversify the tax base.  This includes researching barriers business owners face when attempting to open businesses in Emeryville and removing those challenges when possible.  -Facilitate a public safety coalition between the police department and residents to develop official neighborhood crime prevention councils and work with law enforcement to increase on-foot beat patrols in known “crime hot spots” in the city. 

2. Do you support Emeryville’s Measure C, the affordable housing bond passed by voters in 2018? 

I absolutely support this measure.  I applaud the voters of Emeryville for passing this measure to build more affordable housing in our city.  I encourage continued community oversight of the $50 million dollars of affordable housing financing that this bond provides our city. 

3. Do you support Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance? 

I support minimum and prevailing wages for workers. However, I feel it is essential that any conversation about increasing the minimum wage must include a plan on how to address the rising cost of living, especially with regards to housing.  I will always support increases to minimum wages, as our workers deserve to earn a living wage.  In addition, small business owners should be part of the conversation of minimum wages and be given as much support as possible. 

4. Name two areas in which you think Emeryville has done a good job recently. 

Emeryville has done a fantastic job at COVID 19 response, which includes working with eviction moratorium and support for the business community.  We are lucky in Emeryville to have a council that works very well together, which is beneficial to the entire city.  I also think that our council members have also done well at keeping our city financially solvent.  The responsible fiscal decisions made previously have allowed for our city to avoid some of the major financial pitfalls experienced by surrounding communities. 

5. Name two areas in which you think Emeryville has done a bad job recently. 

I believe there should be a more organized effort to engage residents on the west side of Emeryville.  Many west side residents, especially tenants and residents of color feel disconnected and neglected by the city, especially surrounding concerns about public safety and addressing encampments.  As a west side renter and a woman of color, I feel my election can provide us the representation we deserve.  Additionally, Emeryville tends to get left out of the regional and county policy conversations.  Many of the initiatives and funding Emeryville can benefit from, we miss out on simply because we are not at the table.  As someone who is currently representing Emeryville through two county commissions and has worked as the county’s Continuum of Care Specialist for homelessness services, I have both the connections and relationship building skills to facilitate that process, and will be able to easily incorporate Emeryville in those spaces.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Guest Column: Former City Councilman John Fricke on the Privatization of Emeryville

The Privatization of Emeryville

By John Fricke

Guest Columnist

Back in high school, I learned about the concept, the tragedy of the commons, which holds that unregulated access to public land will inevitably lead to its degradation.  I’m happy to report that we in Emeryville are not at risk of suffering the tragedy of the commons because our public spaces are being safeguarded for private users, to the exclusion of members of the public.

Dean and John on the smaller
play structure in 2019, now
off-limits to the public.

As a parent of a three-year-old, I am again a frequent visitor to Emeryville’s parks and playgrounds.  My son, Dean, my wife, Andrea, and I often visit the public schoolyard next to our house that is owned by Emeryville’s school district.  The schoolyard includes a large play structure for big kids, and a smaller one for kids closer to Dean’s age.  (When my daughters were Dean’s age, we used to enjoy having access to the schoolyard on the weekends.)  But this site is no longer used by the school district as a public elementary school, and the weekend public access is being curtailed by a private school that occupies the site.  

In 2017, the public elementary school was relocated to the high school site, and the school district struck a deal to lease the original elementary school site to a private school that conducts classes in German.  Rest assured, the school district said, public access to the schoolyard would continue.  Indeed, this promise was memorialized in the lease agreement.  

But ever since the German school occupied the site, the public access has been spotty at best.  Most recently, the German school installed a gate and padlock, preventing public access to the smaller playground, sandlot, and community garden.  

Contrary to the lease, access to the public
is denied.

When I brought this to the attention of the school district’s superintendent, Quiauna Scott, Ed.D., a week went by with no response.  After following up with email and voicemail messages, Dr. Scott responded that she would forward my email message the school district’s facilities person, Jody Clarke; and, to the head of the German school, Rufus Pichler.  This latter action struck me as odd given that my message to Dr. Scott included my many unanswered email messages to Mr. Pichler complaining about the German school’s weekly leaf blower noise on Saturdays.  

Apparently, Mr. Pichler felt no need to respond to repeated messages from a member of the public until the superintendent directed him to do so.  His response?  Threaten a lawsuit.  

“It is unlawful to interfere with our contractual relations in this manner. We hereby give you notice and ask that you cease your unlawful interference.”  -- Rufus Pichler.

As it happens, not only does the lease with the German school require that weekend public access be maintained, it also requires the German school not to engage in annoying behavior, such as hours-long leaf blower noise on Saturdays (often coinciding with Dean’s naptime and his parents’ only quiet time during the day).  

Let me pause here to state the obvious:  there is no need to use a leaf blower at all.  The state of the schoolyard grounds before the leaf-blowing is generally fine, except for small areas that can be taken care of with a broom.  Just because there is a tool that can remove every speck of dust from the ground doesn’t mean that it must be used.  Schools somehow managed to operate quite well before the advent of the leaf-blower.  

Why does the school create this noise pollution on Saturdays?  In an unattributed message I received the German school stated that “this work can only be done on weekends when the school is not in session.”  In other words, the noise pollution is not acceptable when the private school is in session, but it is fine to create noise pollution on the weekends when the public has access to the schoolyard.  Mr. Pichler would have us believe that this creates no deterrent to the neighbors’ use of the schoolyard.  By sheer coincidence, whenever the private school parents and students gather for a weekend activity in the schoolyard, the leaf blower noise does not occur.  

What can we expect from Superintendent Scott?  Will she exercise her authority over the private German school, a tenant of the school district?  

The lease revenue from the private German school (close to half a million dollars for this school year) represents a significant portion of the school district’s budget.  Any school district would jealously guard this revenue stream since it comes with few reporting requirements (unlike the money from the state).  

Dr. Scott’s most recent email message reported that she met with Mr. Pichler.  Dr. Scott provided assurances that the small play structure and garden area will remain accessible to the public on the weekends, subject to the area being assessed.  As for the weekend noise pollution, Dr. Scott assured me that the German school “will make a concerted effort with the landscaper to reduce the amount of time the leafblower is used as practicable.”  (Read:  the German school can continue its leaf-blower noise pollution on the weekends when the public is present, so that noise pollution can be avoided when the private school is in session.)  Did Dr. Scott ask Mr. Pichler the obvious question:  why is the leaf blower necessary?  Inquiring minds want to know.  

Any email message assurances from Mr. Pichler directly?  No.  Will my “unlawful interference” on behalf of the public lead to a lawsuit against me or the school district?  Stay tuned to this bat channel.  

Until public access is restored, I will tell Dean that he can only play on the schoolyard’s play structure designed for older children.  As for the leaf blower noise on the weekends, let’s all bring our ear plugs to the schoolyard.  The tragedy of the commons in Emeryville is not overuse, but denial of public access in favor of private use.  

John Fricke is a longtime Emeryville resident, father of three, husband, lawyer, and former member of the Emeryville City Council.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

City Council Special Election 2021: Charlotte Danielsson-Chang

 City Council Special Election Questionnaire: Charlotte Danielsson-Chang

November 2nd, Emeryville voters will decide a replacement for Christian Patz who vacated his City Council seat in June.  This special election asks voters to chose between two candidates, Charlotte Danielsson-Chang and Courtney Welch.  We thank these two democratically minded candidates for running for our City Council.  As you review their candidacies, we think you'll agree both are very qualified to serve.   Be sure to read Courtney Welch's responses to these questions  HERE.

Charlotte's campaign website is HERE

Courtney's campaign website is HERE

Charlotte Danielsson-Chang
According to her campaign website, Charlotte is a small business owner practicing business and immigration law for technology companies in the Bay Area since 1998.  She currently serves as a Commissioner for the Alameda County Human Relations Commission, and is Chair of the National Voter Education Forum for the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association.


1. Briefly explain what your vision for Emeryville is and how you propose to 
take us there.

Emeryville is the city of “arts and innovation” and my vision is to foster an environment where the ingenuity of our citizens can flourish and where both people and businesses feel genuinely invested in our community. We need to focus more on the livability of our city; we need more spaces for people to connect---more parks, green space, bike/walking trails, public gathering spaces, and small businesses---and we need to deal with environmental and climate change issues more proactively. Our smaller size is an asset and means we can be more creative, nimble, adaptable, and make sure all people within our community are treated with respect and dignity. Diverse input results in more innovative and effective solutions so I would prioritize not only respecting diverse voices but actively reaching out to parts of our community that have historically not been very involved with our city government. I would work with companies within our city to concentrate their social impact and sustainability initiatives in Emeryville to make the companies and their employees feel more invested in the city. I’ve spent decades working with entrepreneurs and building tech ecosystems and will use those contacts and that knowledge to foster more entrepreneurship in Emeryville. More info at

2. Do you support Emeryville’s Measure C, the affordable housing bond passed by voters in 2018?

Yes absolutely. We need to make sure people at all income levels can afford to live in Emeryville. We need to make sure that the seniors on fixed incomes, many of whom have lived here for decades and hold the historical knowledge of Emeryville that gives us our roots, can afford to stay here. We need to make sure we don’t lose the artists who play such an essential role in providing inspiration for our city. We need our teachers, nurses, fire fighters and police officers to be able to live in the community they serve. We need to take care of our families who are struggling to survive and our homeless because that’s the heart of who we are as a progressive city. 

3. Do you support Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance?

Yes, Emeryville has a high cost of living so wages should reflect that and reflect our beliefs as a city that workers matter. The Minimum Wage Ordinance often gets blamed for the empty and boarded up retail spaces in Emeryville but that’s inaccurate because this trend predates the Minimum Wage Ordinance. It started off with new developments creating retail spaces that were too expensive for small business owners and now there is the devastating impact of Covid on top of that which is also accelerating the disruption of the retail industry brought on by technological changes and the rise of ecommerce. I’ve been a small business owner for 23 years and my parents were small business owners throughout my childhood so I know personally that being a small business owner is a 24/7 all-in endeavor that consumes all aspects of your life and being able to feed your family is tied to how well your business does. Our city needs to keep our small businesses in mind whenever development decisions are made both in terms of making sure we have viable spaces for them and that we are ensuring that they have the foot traffic and visibility needed to thrive. Our city also has a role to play in helping small businesses build forward-focused resiliency in terms of providing information and resources to adapt to economic and technological shifts more easily.

4.   Name two areas in which you think Emeryville has done a good job recently.

One, Emeryville is a leader in the region for affordable housing.

Two, giving BioMed Realty development approval to expand its Emeryville Center of Innovation. The project involves building 4 new lab buildings which expands our life science core, will bring more high paying jobs to the region, and expand our reputation as a city of innovation.  The project is being done in a way that it contributes to the livability of the community as a whole by including 300 acres of public space including parks, cafĂ©, etc. 

5.   Name two areas in which you think Emeryville has done a bad job recently.

We haven’t done enough regarding climate change or public safety. Here’s an example that encompasses both: my husband, an avid cyclist who rides 20-30 miles multiple times per week, would say the bike trails are great here and I know many cyclists would probably agree.  Biking, however, is not currently a truly viable alternative means of transportation that would make our city more livable and decrease our negative impact on the environment.  You know you’ve attained the goal of cycling as an alternative form of transportation when you see seniors with groceries, parents with kids, and people in their regular clothes (not special biking clothes) using our bike lanes and there are safe places for them to store their bikes when they get to their locations.  Emeryville has an extremely high property crime rate, a lot of which could be reduced by better urban planning, smarter infrastructure, and more community engagement. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here and waste taxpayer dollars trying to figure out what would make this transition work…we only need to talk to cities in Europe who have successfully transformed their infrastructure as I have been doing for over a decade in my nonprofit work…to successfully do this in the cheapest manner possible.  

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Bike Lanes on Horton Street Put Bikers in Danger

 Photos Reveal Public Policy Failure

There Are Not Supposed to Be Bike Lanes on Horton Street

So Why Are Lanes on the Street?

News Analysis

There's a warehouse on Horton Street with a shallow loading dock that delivery trucks back into, leaving the street partially blocked while workers unload it.  Note the photos taken today (below).  Actually there are several such loading docks on Horton Street.  They are relics from Emeryville's industrial past.  Fair enough.  But why is there a bike lane in front of a loading dock?  The bike lane gets completely blocked every time a delivery truck arrives.  Blocked bike lanes are a safety hazard to bicyclists who have to swerve out into the traffic lane to avoid the obstacle.   This erratic movement has been identified as extremely dangerous for bicyclists in numerous bike safety studies.

So why would Emeryville place bike lanes in such a place?  

Horton Street is designated as a bike boulevard.  That's a street where vehicles are allowed but bikes are preferred.  Bike boulevards are not supposed to have bike lanes.  They're instead supposed to have low vehicle volume.  In the case of Horton Street, there's supposed to be no more than 3000 vehicle trips per day.  To make sure that number is not exceeded and bicyclists are safe, the City is supposed to place traffic calming devises to divert vehicle traffic to other streets.  Businesses in Emeryville have told the City they don't want traffic calming on streets where they do business.  So the City put bike lanes on the bike boulevard rendering the designation meaningless but in so doing, they also created a public safety problem.  

The photos below are not special.  These loading docks are used every day on Horton Street.  Delivery trucks wouldn't be a problem for bicyclists if there was a real bike boulevard here (no bike lanes).   The businesses could still use their loading docks if there was a bike boulevard, but the truck drivers might have to drive a block farther to get around a diverter.  The City of Emeryville doesn't want to inconvenience these businesses even a little, even if it means putting bicyclists in danger.

When City Hall works for the business community instead of OUR community, this is the result.  Bike safety is a secondary concern over business profits in Emeryville.  These (unremarkable) photos prove it.


If there was very little traffic on the street, bikes
wouldn't need bike lanes and they wouldn't
have to swerve out into high volume traffic 
to avoid truck loading.  That's how it's supposed 
to work on a bike boulevard.