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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Breaking News: City Manager to Retire Effective in July


Emeryville City Manager Christine Daniel
City Manager Christine Daniel announced to the City Council tonight she will retire as city manager effective July 31st.  The Council revealed the news to the public after they reported out from closed session at approximately 8:30.  No reasons were given for the sudden resignation.

Ms Daniel has been Emeryville's  City Manager since 2018 when she replaced Jim Holgerson who had been hired as a temporary two month interim manager while the Council searched for a replacement for the departing Carolyn Lehr in that year. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Boulders: Emeryville Hits on New Way to Clear Out Homeless People

Police Rousts Homeless Camp

$13,000 Spent on Boulder Field

City Hall Refuses to Explain

Accountability and Transparency Vacates Emeryville With the Homeless People

Humane Policies Out, Boulders and Secrecy In

News Analysis

Late in April, Emeryville's police quietly rousted a small group of homeless people camped on a City owned piece of land on 40th Street behind City Hall so it could place $13,000 worth of boulders there.  The uprooted homeless people have not returned, probably because the taxpayer funded boulders are so tightly spaced that a human body cannot recline between them.  We say ‘probably’ because all we've been able to get by way of an explanation from officials at City Hall about this lavishly funded public work is a 'no comment'.  Are the boulders just dumped there, waiting to be assembled in some way?  They're not saying.  Is this field of boulders indicative of a new policy about how the City deals with homeless people?  Again, they're not saying.

Even though the City refuses to say anything about it, the barren, seemingly inconsequential triangular shaped plot of public land along 40th Street at Hollis Street has become emblematic and revelatory of Emeryville’s real policy about homeless people.  The City has long downplayed implications about the lack of homeless encampments within its borders, especially when compared with neighboring cities and they've even gone as far as to claim the lack of encampments here proves the efficacy and humaneness of its homeless policy.  However the April homeless clearance on 40th Street and the accompanying $13,000 boulder field raises questions not easily dismissed by a button lipped City Hall.  

Mohamed Alaoui
Emeryville's Public Works Director

"No comment" he says about the boulder field.
The people don't have a right to know.
Through a State of California enforced public records request, the Tattler was able to find that the police department cleared out the homeless camp on the orders of City Hall.  The clearing out of the undesirable people was the City’s part of a contract with Rubicon Landscaping of Richmond, a company the City regularly uses for its landscaping needs.  For this project, Rubicon billed Emeryville $12,976 for the placement of 21 tons of gravel and 14 pallets of ‘double head’ boulders, the public records request revealed.  Anything beyond that, the City of Emeryville has refused to account for.  The lack of a chain of command paper trail hints the City Council was not likely a direct part in this decision.  Rather, it was probably made administratively by the city manager or the director of the Public Works Department. 

Still, the people have a right to know, especially because they paid for this.  Why are these boulders needed?  Who decided this?  How long will the boulders be on the people's property?  Was any consideration made to how the boulders look?  What happened to the homeless people formerly camped there the public paid to roust?  The City of Emeryville refuses to answer these or any questions about this other than the firm 'no comment' from Public Works Director Mohamed Alaoui. 

Welcome to Emeryville: All are Welcome Here
*except homeless people
The stark difference between Oakland and Berkeley versus Emeryville has for years been expressed in the large number of homeless camps just outside the city's boundaries compared with the total lack of camps within Emeryville. Council members and staff until now, have been quick to explain the difference is that Emeryville’s homeless policies are good and effective at gently steering homeless people to government recourses including bed facilities.  The police department here has always denied that homeless people are rousted.  To those who have asked about it, the answer up until now has always been that Emeryville is good and humane, leaving that Berkeley and Oakland, with their homeless encampments, must be bad and inhumane.  However, the April call to roust the homeless people at the 40th Street site and the new field of boulders placed there calls this longstanding explanation into question.

The questions persist.  Why won’t the City be forthcoming about this?  Is this reflective of a new anti-homeless policy or is it the City just got caught this time?  Rubicon Landscaping charged Emeryville a lot of money for this.  Were there other bids to supply the boulders?  Did Rubicon get a sweetheart backroom deal?  Is the City hiding something here?  Where did the money to pay for this come from?  Were federal Covid-19 funds or other such inappropriate funds used to purchase these boulders?  How are these boulders placed on our land representative of Emeryville values?  The answers to these questions about the people's business will not be answered by those doing the people’s business at City Hall.  But the Tattler will keep trying to shed light into this and forcing them to account.

This is how you spent your $13,000.
Just keep paying your taxes and stop asking questions.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Reversal: EPD Now Says It's Illegal to Park in Bike Lanes

Police Department Reverses Earlier Decision Legalizing Bike Lane Blocking

While Chief is Away on Medical Leave, Second in Command Announces it's Now Illegal To Park in Bike Lanes

A delivery truck blocking a bike lane on Horton Street in Emeryville last week received a ticket by the Emeryville police.  It’s a normal, everyday thing in cities across the Bay Area, but in Emeryville, it represents a great leap forward in bicycle safety.

Until April 14th, trucks blocking bike lanes didn’t get ticketed because it was a perfectly legal thing according to Emeryville’s Chief of Police Jeffery Jennings and his interpretation of California’s Vehicle Code.  But on that date, an attorney hired by the City of Emeryville to examine Chief Jennings’s claim, determined that, like other cities, Emeryville should consider vehicles blocking bike lanes as illegal.

April 27th, after the new April 14th EPD ruling,
this truck was blocking a bike lane on Horton Street

A City hired 'special counsel', Christie Crowl, delivered her finding about the California Vehicle Code at an April 14th Transportation Committee meeting during a bike lane discussion item brought by Mayor John Bauters.  Emeryville’s police captain, second in command, Oliver Collins, who attended the meeting later told the Tattler the police department would take up Ms Crowl’s interpretation of the vehicle code, reversing the Chief's ruling, making Emeryville no longer an outlier among Bay Area cities.  Chief Jennings has been out for some weeks on medical leave and did not attend the Transportation Committee meeting.

...moments later, the truck received a parking
ticket for "blocking a bike lane" according to this
EPD employee issuing the citation
The City of Emeryville and its police department has been flustered at the Tattler’s airing of Chief Jennings’s unique, some might say embarrassing reading of state law over the past months.  With the Chief out on long term leave, acting chief, Mr Collins wasted no time instructing his troops that the department would henceforth follow the ruling made by Ms Crowl, resulting in the ticketing of the truck on Horton Street for bike lane blocking.  The Police Department's actions hint that it wants to move past the imbroglio brought by Chief Jennings as quickly as possible.  The attorney’s opinion was made on April 14th and tickets for infraction were already being written by April 27th.

 Chief Jennings could not be reached for comment about this reversal of his edict.

The new ruling will have the effect of protecting bicyclists (when implemented) and it also brings Emeryville’s Municipal Code into compliance with the State's Vehicle Code which had previously been in conflict.  Emeryville’s code (4-9.12) makes it illegal to block bike lanes but the Chief said Emeryville’s law cannot supersede Sacramento law and so it was considered null and void.  Emeryville’s code, which reads, “It shall be unlawful for the operator of any train, truck, or other vehicle to stop or park in such a manner as to block or impede the flow of traffic” included bicycle traffic in the law before Chief Jennings's ruling.  

Emeryville Police Chief Jeff Jennings
Away on long term medical leave, 
Emeryville has moved on past him.

Mr Jennings announced that it's OK for vehicles to block bike lanes (for up to 72 hours) in a letter to the City last November as a result of frustration over mounting calls from angry bicyclists.  The Chief subsequently directed his employees not to ticket vehicles parked in bike lanes.  Publicly, he announced that any vehicles that blocked bike lanes but also parked in red curb zones or with 'no parking' signs would get tickets from his department.

The Tattler challenged the Chief’s red zone exception with a series of calls to the department over trucks parked in red zones  (that also were blocking bike lanes).  What we found was that police would not arrive if the dispatcher was informed that a red zone blocking truck was also blocking a bike lane.  We documented six such cases, waiting for the police for at least 20 minutes and up to one hour.  In no case did police ever arrive, let alone ticket the truck for the red zone violation.

Christie Crowl was hired by the City as special counsel expressly to rule on this bike lane issue for presentation to the  April 14th Transportation Committee meeting.  Ms Crowl served as Emeryville’s interim deputy city attorney before new City Attorney John Kennedy was hired March 2nd.  Ms Crowl is a partner at Jarvis Fay and Gibson, an Oakland based law firm specializing in government law.

It remains to be seen after Chief Jennings returns to his job if he will overturn his employee Captain Collins’s new ruling supporting bicyclists and safe bike lane travel.  For the record, Mr Collins told the Tattler he is confident the department will not go back to the days of legal bike lane blocking.  

The Law Before April 14th:
Each one of the following trucks were blocking 
red zones and blocking bike lanes.  The police were 
called but they never showed up.  No show means no tickets means it's
defacto legal.  The Chief said vehicles red zone blocking would mean tickets,
regardless of bike lanes.  These photos are part of the Tattler documentation that he
didn't mean what he said.  Demonstrably, it's OK, under Chief Jennings's (former) ruling, to block red zones as long as you're also blocking a bike lane.  He isn't fond of bicycling.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Breaking News: Emeryville Police Give Up Military Chemical Weapon Launchers, Keep Assault Rifles

Breaking News:

Emeryville Police Attempt Carve Out Exemption for Arsenal of Military Assault Rifles

Emeryville Stands Alone Among Bay Area Police Departments 

AR-15 Rifles at Neighboring Police Departments Voluntarily Regulated By AB-481

The Emeryville Police Department last week unceremoniously dumped its arsenal of military style chemical agent launchers and issued a letter of disclosure to the City Council of its stockpile of military weapons of war in order to comply with California Assembly Bill 481, the Tattler has learned.  The department however is reserving the right to continue to carry the AR-15 military assault rifles as it has, regardless of the provisions of AB 481 (which normally requires police departments to declare them and submit a use policy for them) using a controversial claim that the assault rifles are “standard issue” and therefore beyond the reach of the State's regulation.  The City Council will meet and discuss the issue at its Tuesday meeting.

Emeryville Police Department stands alone among police departments in the Bay Area with the claim about its AR-15 arsenal according to John Lindsay-Poland, the co-director of the American Friends Service Committee’s California Healing Justice program.  All the other police departments are not making such a claim and their department issued AR-15 rifles are consequentially falling under the regulatory provisions of AB 481, Mr Lindsay-Poland told the Tattler. 

The purpose of the assembly bill, signed into law on September 30, 2021, is to require the police department to obtain the approval of the City Council before taking actions relating to the funding, acquisition, or use of military equipment. 

The issuance of AR-15 assault rifles among
some police departments like EPD have contributed
to a culture of militarization in recent years.

AB 481 was authored by Assembly member David Chiu (D-San Francisco).  It was written to have the effect to reduce the amount of military equipment and weapons of war in California police departments.  The jettisoning of Emeryville’s military chemical agent launchers last week just before Tuesday’s letter to the City Council is testimony to the bill's reach.  But the claims of compliance with AB 481 made by EPD regarding its stockpile of the AR-15 military assault rifles will have to be quantified according to the new law.  A strenuous policy of transparency and accountability to citizen complainants provided in the bill means the department may end up reclassifying the guns to match neighboring police departments.

The legislature of the State of California has defined the AR-15 as military equipment and an assault rifle

The American Friends Service Committee, founded in 1917, is a Religious Society of Friends (the 'Quakers') founded organization working for peace and social justice in the United States and around the world. 

Military CS Gas Launcher
Emeryville Police finally gave up these weapons of war 
last week because of AB 481.

In anticipation of Tuesday’s meeting, the City staff says AB 481 requires that law enforcement agencies seeking to continue the use of any Military Equipment must commence the approval process for the Policy by May 1, 2022.  They are recommending waiving the first reading of and introducing an ordinance adopting Emeryville Police Department Policy 707: Military Equipment. The second reading and formal adoption of the ordinance will not be scheduled until the relinquishment of the military chemical launcher equipment is verified as complete. 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

The Emeryville Face of Citizen Engagement and Activism: RULE Folds After 14 Years

 RULE Showed Us How It's Done

The Emeryville resident activist group known as RULE announced in a press release through its steering committee last week, that it is disbanding after 14 years, having run its course as well as having been sidelined as a result of the pandemic over the last two years.  The group, who’s name is an acronym for Residents United for a Livable Emeryville and who has been the focus of many Tattler stories over the years, was ambiguous in its reasons for folding now, stating only that it had reached a “natural stopping place”.  The press release singled out the local social justice activist group EBASE (East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy) for helping get RULE off the ground and thanking them, noting the remaining funds in its bank account ($1317) would be donated to EBASE.

Having the ear of the City Council, RULE contributed much to Emeryville, having endorsed every winning Council member over the years.  In fact, one of the the most extraordinary things RULE accomplished in its 14 years was its perfect record on selecting politicians and local electoral measures and ballot initiatives.  Every single RULE endorsement was victorious, including even every School Board candidate selectee; a remarkable consummation of its political clout and indicative of its Emeryville centrist values and political bonafides, made even more remarkable considering its inauspicious beginnings.

Some 50 dues paying members strong at its outset, RULE was forged in 2008 during a time of business and developer hegemony in Emeryville history when resident’s interests took a back seat to business interests at City Hall.  The City Council, stacked up five deep in order to help those seeking to make a profit in our town, were in the thrall of the business community.  The locus of the power resided in the long standing Councilwoman Nora Davis.  At her zenith at RULE’s inception, Ms Davis, was a stalwart and generous friend to developers and the powerful Emeryville Chamber of Commerce who ran City Hall out of its taxpayer funded headquarters on Harlan Street.  Together, they provided the leadership to build the town as the developers and business owners prescribed.  

RULE joined with EBASE to help give 
the City Council space to raise Emeryville's
minimum wage to the highest in the nation.

In this milieu and made up of only residents, RULE took on a plucky and adversarial role with enough audacity to imagine a more democratic city that would work for the residents.  The Tattler was there, ready to support RULE since its beginning.

With its outrageous pro-resident and left wing demands, like more locally serving retail as well as a place at the table for unions in construction and a higher minimum wage in Emeryville, RULE was mostly just ignored by the elite….at first.  But as successes came, derision came, followed by fighting and vilifying from the businesses community and their Council sycophants, and especially from former resident Rob Arias, who helped form a pro-business blog the E’Ville Eye meant to counter the Tattler and RULE.  Mr Arias, who has since moved on to Pleasant Hill in Contra Costa County, provided the pushback and as the powerful Chamber of Commerce foundered, he helped form a replacement business lobbying group known as Little City Emeryville. 

That group, undemocratic and secretive, also folded against mounting RULE successes.  Little City Emeryville and the E’Ville Eye ultimately served as an impotent foil to RULE and the Tattler.  Emeryville voters wanted none of what the business community was selling; Mr Arias and Little City Emeryville backed the loser in every Emeryville election before Rob finally packed it in and moved out to the suburbs.

RULE went to the residents to see what they wanted in a city-wide survey at its inception.  Now, having achieved most of its goals identified by that survey, the most influential resident interest group in the City’s history leaves the scene with much to be proud of.  Its work included installing a progressive vision and a progressive City Council to implement that vision in order to deliver among other things, a minimum wage high enough to keep full time workers out of poverty and real solutions to address the region-wide lack of affordable housing.  These progressive policies and more for which Emeryville is now known and emulated among California communities were brought to fruition in no small part by RULE.

In its swan song March 21st press release, RULE takes a bow for its impressive game changing list of accomplishments and they throw down a challenge to new residents who might take it all for granted.  Warning against a reinvigorated business community rising, RULE  reminds new residents as it exits the stage; ‘It’s only when residents get involved, raise their voices, organize, and go to the polls that positive change is possible’ .

Monday, February 21, 2022

Crush of Trucks Blocking Bike Lanes Draws Chief of Police to Declare it Legal

Chief of Police Rules OK to Block Bike Lanes in Emeryville

Illegal to Block Lanes in Neighboring Cities

City Hall Scrambles to Protect Bikers, Thwart Chief's Ruling

Officials at Emeryville City Hall have been pushed into a tailspin by recent incendiary comments from the chief of police that claim people are allowed to block bike lanes with parked vehicles for up to 72 hours without fear of receiving a ticket from the police department. The comments came in a November 29th email from Chief Jeffery Jennings after a cascade of citizen complaints about trucks blocking our bike lanes and have pushed the city staff and the Council to search for new ways to keep the city’s bike lanes clear, the Tattler has learned.  Mr Jennings cites the California Vehicle Code as his authoritative source that it is “perfectly legal” for vehicles to block bike lanes, interestingly, the same source that neighboring cities use to declare the practice illegal.

Emeryville Chief of Police Jeffery Jennings
His unique reading of the California Vehicle Code
puts him at odds with chiefs of police in Berkeley,
Oakland, San Francisco and Hayward.

The City of Emeryville is scrambling, responding to the distressing pronouncement from Chief Jennings by exploring extra levels of protection for bicyclists such as painting all curbs in bike lanes red and/or adding ‘no parking’ signs alongside every bike lane.  Mr Jennings expressed to the Tattler that such actions would be enough for him to start directing his officers to ticket vehicles in those bike lanes.  

Attorneys contacted by the Tattler expressed surprise at Chief Jennings’ take on the vehicle code that has the added effect of voiding Emeryville’s new parking meter program by offering a plethora of free parking on any bike lane.  One attorney stated the snippets quoted from the California Vehicle Code by Mr Jennings seem to be cherry picked in such a way as to make vehicles blocking bike lanes legal.  

The November 29th statement legalizing bike lane blocking in Emeryville by Chief Jennings, cites CA Vehicle Code Div 11 Chapter 1 Article 4 Section 2121 which states:  No person may stop, stand, sit, or loiter upon any class I bikeway, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public or private bicycle path or trail, if the stopping, standing, sitting, or loitering impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist.

The above language would protect bike lanes but Chief Jennings focuses on the Streets and Highways Code to make his determination that it is OK for vehicles to block the lanes, a move former Emeryville City Council member and practicing attorney John Fricke took issue with.  In a letter to the Tattler responding to the Chief, Mr Fricke was adamant, “The police chief's reliance on S&H Code section 890.4 is severely undermined by the fact that the S&H Code in general is not where vehicle prohibitions are placed.  For that, one must look to the Vehicle Code.  In addition, section 890.4 is part of a larger act that has as its main purpose the promotion of bicycle travel: the California Bicycle Transportation Act.  How ironic that the police chief cites this act as proof that trucks can block a bike lane.”, Mr Fricke wrote. 

Additionally, Mr Fricke notes “Subsection (b) is the general rule, no parking in the bike lane ("upon any bikeway" includes a Class II bikeway as defined in Streets and Highways Code section 890.4, which is the section  the police chief cites as evidence of a right to park in a bike lane).” 

The City of Emeryville’s Municipal Code also protects bike travel in town by making it illegal to block a bike lane.  Code 4-9.21 states “It shall be unlawful for the operator of any train, truck, or other vehicle to stop or park in such manner as to block or impede the flow of traffic”.  However Chief Jennings says the Emeryville Municipal Code is subordinate to the greater authority of the California Vehicle Code and so bicycle traffic may be impeded.

The Tattler contacted the police departments in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and Hayward and all reported it is illegal for vehicles to block bike lanes in their respective cities.  Berkeley PD Officer Vaughn (#826) uses the same CA Vehicle Code Div 11 Chapter 1 Article 4 Section 2121 Chief Jennings does but he said, "We cite [vehicles] for that every day”.

The only vehicles allowed to block bike lanes according the the California Vehicle code are specifically utility trucks, newspaper delivery trucks, garbage trucks and tow trucks, and all while actively working only.

Bike safety studies have shown crossing over the solid white line of a bike lane, swerving out into a vehicle lane to avoid a vehicle blocking is the most dangerous legal move a bicyclist can make.  Emeryville, it would appear, will continue to be a place for this very dangerous movement made by bicyclists unless the City Council reverses Mr Jennings and his anti-bike directive.  

Chief Jennings is not some lone wolf it should be noted.  An October 29th 2020 Tattler story highlighted a recalcitrant Emeryville Police Department loath to issue citations for vehicles blocking our bike lanes, indicating this anti-bike culture predates Chief Jennings who was hired in December of that year.

For his part, Mr Jennings has downplayed the whole bike lane tumult.  Shrugging off the mounting controversy his legal-to-block-bike-lanes directive has caused, the Chief was nonchalant, ”If this is the worst problem that I have then I'm doing well” he told the Tattler.

Emeryville Police responded to calls concerning this truck with a large banner
parked on Shellmound Street, blocking the bike lane.  No tickets were written
because "It is legally parked" said one of the responding officers.

This banner could be placed on any one of the hundreds of trucks blocking our bike lanes 
every week in Emeryville.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Guest Column: John Fricke on Emeryville's Shoddy Children's Playgrounds

Emeryville City Hall’s New Language of Empathy and Inaction

By John Fricke

Guest Columnist

When I was growing up in Chicago my mother would say to me, ką darai, daryk gerai!  (What you do, do well! – in Lithuanian.)  In my practice of law, I’ve tried to live up to that parental advice.  Not so Emeryville city government.

In Emeryville city government, the performance goal appears to be markedly lower than the one imparted to me by my mother.  What specifically comes to mind is the condition of our public playgrounds.  

My three-year-old son, Dean, and I are frequent visitors to the various playgrounds.  Based on my experience from when my daughters were Dean’s age, playground deficiencies brought to the attention of someone in Emeryville city government would quickly be repaired.  When my parents would visit from Chicago, they brought their granddaughters to various Emeryville playgrounds, all in pretty good repair.  

Therefore, when I brought Dean to the same playgrounds, I was taken aback.  Was the city not aware of the various things in need of repair?  Of the trees that had been cut down by the city and not replanted?  Had no one brought these things to their attention?  A quick email to the city manager (annual salary over $227,000) will address my concerns, I thought.  

I’ve since come to realize that the work ethic of ką darai daryk gerai has been replaced with a new bureaucrat-speak that manages to meld empathy and inaction into one sentence.  

The city manager’s response to my email message (enumerating all the things needing attention at five public playgrounds) included this sentence: 

“We are also assessing what grant opportunities from the state might be available to fund the various infrastructure improvements at the parks you describe below.”

Inquiring minds surely want to know what were these ‘infrastructure improvements’ I was demanding. 

Eradicate graffiti (infrastructure improvement?):

Replant shade trees (cut down by the city) near play structures (infrastructure improvement?):

Why replant a tree when you can fill the 
tree well with concrete?

It almost leaves you with the impression that they don't care.

Patch rubber matting (infrastructure improvement?):

The city manager’s response promised “substantive answers”.  She then passed the buck down the chain of command.  

I held my breath for a response.  After two weeks of no response from our very-well-paid city functionaries, I sent a follow-up message.  

Days later, a response came from the director of public works (annual salary over $161,000), including the following:  “Playground facilities assessment and budget is in the process of being prepared and scheduled based on funding.”

Here was a person well-trained in the new language of empathy and inaction.  

I immediately sent another message demanding to know when the repairs would be completed.  And again, I was provided (with a same-day response, no less) with an exemplar of the new lingua franca:

“We are working on the park assessment now and the recommended repairs.  With that we are also obtaining the costs and timing.  We will then process for the repairs based on the city contracting requirements and available funding.  The rubber matting is high on the list and I look to have the recommendations and timing for repairs soon.  Have a wonderful day and please feel free to contact me at any time.  Take Care.”  

Ron Swanson is alive and well and working in Emeryville city hall.  

Despite the fog of bureaucrat-speak, I did manage to glean a date certain by which seven trees would be replanted.  (No commitment for when the other things would be addressed.)  When, pray tell, will the trees be replanted, you ask?  

In April.  

Of 2021.  

Since my original messages, Emeryville has completed a circumnavigation of the sun.

As far as replanting trees, regular Tattler readers will no doubt chime in regarding the city council’s sordid sell-out of the street trees on Horton Street.  Orwell would appreciate the council members’ Newspeak word, “nuisance tree”, whereby, at the developer’s behest, a healthy tree is transmogrified into a nuisance, and then cut down.   Dean and I should be glad that the remaining trees in the playgrounds have not met the same fate.  I suppose that’s because a developer hasn’t yet cast his wandering eye on a parcel occupied by a playground.  Longtime Emeryville residents will recall how adamantly opposed Council member Nora Davis was to a park at Doyle and 59th streets.  After all, the city council had purchased the property with the intention of constructing a four-level parking garage.  During the dot com frenzy of the late Nineties, Emeryville business owners’ demand for more free parking had to be sated, according to Nora.  My election put an end to that folly.  

Say!  A parking garage!  No muss, no fuss.  No grass to mow, no trees to replant, no play structures to repair.  The new Newspeak word:  nuisance playground.  Doubleplusgood!

In the twelve months since I emailed the city manager not only have none of the repairs been done, but more things have broken down in the interim. 

In June, the public works department boarded up a slide that needed repair.  

Seven months later, even the barricades are breaking down. 

Perhaps we should set our sights on a more achievable goal: repair the barricades.

The rubber matting in one location has now been worn down to the concrete slab beneath.   

A spinning item has broken off at the base creating a protruding pipe.  The city’s solution:  more traffic barricades. 

Personal injury lawyers smell blood in the water.

These days, when I ask Dean which playground he wants to go to, he refers to them based on the thing that’s broken.  The playground at Doyle and 59th streets:  “Broken Slide Park”

Perhaps I should appropriate the new language of empathy and inaction when responding to my son’s questions.

Dean:  Daddy, why is the slide still boarded up?  

Me:  Son, the city is working on the park assessment right now, is assessing grant opportunities, and is processing for this repair based on regulatory contracting requirements.  The city will coordinate with all relevant stakeholders and interested parties.  The slide will be repaired soon.  Their door is always open.  Have a wonderful day.  Take Care.

Or, maybe this new language is best appropriated in my practice of law.  If I fail to complete a task on time, why not replace candor with the new bureaucrat-speak (“nuisance deadline”)?  Will my client be any the wiser?

And what of the city manager’s “promised answers” (as indicated in her message of February 26, 2021)? 


Perhaps the leading lights down at city hall should seek funding opportunities to establish a new city motto.  I propose the following candidates:  Good things come to those who wait.  Or, Emeryville Public Works, Out of Order (temporarily).  Or, Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the slothful.  Or, How can I not help you?  Or, Fool you once, shame on you.  Fool you twice, shame on you.  Or, “Playground facilities assessment and budget is in the process of being prepared and scheduled based on funding.”  

Gentle readers, please contribute your own suggestions for a new motto.  The following will be rejected out of hand:  Ką darai, daryk blogai (what you do, do poorly).

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

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Mayor Bauters Slams Developer For Illegal Demolition, City Levies Fines

Unprecedented in Emeryville: City Levies Fines on Housing Developer

Mayor Calls Developer's Actions a "Charade" 

Developer Says "Mayor Has it Out For Me"

The Emeryville City Council, long known for their obsequious fawning over real estate developers, finally met a developer they cannot countenance.  Vallejo resident Aquis Bryant, a self described entrepreneur and ‘house flipper’ was given a sharp rebuke and a quintuple building permit fine at the December 21st City Council meeting after Mayor John Bauters called out the small time developer for illegally tearing down his four plex apartment building at 1271 64th Street and a Christmas time eviction of the prior tenets there.  The illegal demolition was acknowledged but the eviction charge is refuted by Mr Bryant.

A major point of contention flared at the December 21st meeting whether the applicant, Mr Bryant (no relation to Emeryville City Planner Charlie Bryant) evicted his low income ‘section eight’ tenants in order to do work on the building approved in 2016, a point alleged by Mayor Bauters.  Mr Bryant told the Tattler the Mayor’s eviction allegations are untrue and that he simply asked his tenants if they were willing to be “bought out” or paid money to leave, to which they agreed and were paid.  He called the eviction charge “false”. 

Property owner and developer at 1271 64th St
Aquis Bryant

The 2016 building permit Mr Bryant had received was a conditional use permit to renovate his building by adding an additional floor to increase the size of two of the existing four units from two to three bedrooms.  The tenants at the building all vacated the premise prior to the beginning of work and the building contractor hired by Mr Bryant proceeded to demolished the entire structure, explicitly not permitted by the City of Emeryville.  A Stop Work Order was subsequently issued and a Notice of Violation sent out by the City.  Mr Bryant then applied for an after the fact demolition permit as well as permission to rebuild the entire building according to the new plans, both of which were approved by the Planning Commission in October of 2021.  

The Mayor’s short temper at the December meeting was attributed to the fact that he (Mr Bauters) was a Planning Commissioner in 2016 as it turns out and had been privy to the ‘no demolition’ first iteration of the 64th Street project application.  The mayor, clearly angered at the applicant for the unapproved demolition, expressed that he had heard about the tenants’ removal after the 2016 Planning Commission building renovation approval.  For his part, Mr Bryant says his contractor demolished the building without his permission. 

The City Council in December ultimately approved the new construction however, invoking the Municipal Code, they levied a ‘five times’ building permit fine owing to the fact that Mr Bryant had partaken in construction (demolition actually) without a required permit, for a total fine/fee of $64,135 (five times added to the original $10,241) .  The Council also added a provision the applicant pay for a special inspection of the final height of the building to make sure it is in compliance.  To all this, Mayor Bauters said, “Maybe this will be an incentive to have the applicant be a more responsible home flipper in our community which is not interested in continuing in a charade like this.”  

Mr Bryant who after telling the Tattler “The Mayor has it out for me”, said he would pay the fines, “What else can I do?” he asked.

Mayor John Bauters
On the Planning Commission in 2016, he was assured
this developer would not demolish the building.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Mayor Martinez: Lying & Science Denialism Rates a D-

 Mayor Dianne Martinez

Continuing our tradition of looking back on each year-long mayorship of the rotating Emeryville City Council members/cum mayors, with Dianne Martinez now moving aside to make way for John Bauters, we take this opportunity to look back on Mayor Martinez’s tenure as Emeryville's highest elected official.  The Tattler continues with the tradition of these mayoral wrap-ups; the assignment of letter grades for each mayor—and to that end, we report Dianne Martinez has received a D- for her efforts as our mayor.


Emeryville Mayor in 2021
Dianne Martinez
A glaring piece of bad politics came last June 15th when the Council majority voted to cut down the people’s street trees at the Sherwin Williams development site at the request of Lennar Development Corporation, Mayor Martinez leading the charge.  Before her June 15th vote, she also had voted to kill the same trees in a losing bid in 2019.  Ms Martinez, hoping people had forgotten, appallingly attempted to rewrite history when she announced at the June meeting she had been in favor of saving the trees in 2019.  “I was on the side of doing everything we could [to save the trees] but now, I’m on the side of (having the healthiest and most vibrant trees on Horton Street), she said, parroting the developer’s talking points.  Ms Martinez’s colleague, the former Councilman Christian Patz, at the same June 15th meeting told the assembled crowd that the developer had presented no new information from the 2019 Council vote (when the trees were saved).  The Mayor, undaunted, then voted to kill the trees again after happily announcing that the developer had gone behind the back of the Council and gotten permission from the staff regardless and so any vote to save the trees would just be a wasted protest vote.  This was the politics of the public be damned at its most cynical.

In addition to her terrible vote in June, before the voting and before hearing her colleagues openly deliberate on the matter, Mayor Martinez stated that she had already made up her mind to kill the trees, attempting to unfairly coerce her colleagues into voting with her.  She announced, “Let me indicate for you how I’m going to vote tonight”  (see video at 33:40) without letting the other Council members have their say in a fair and open manner.  In so doing, Mayor Martinez worked to close down open and meaningful Council debate.  All City Council members are supposed to listen to what the others say before deciding.  They should come to meetings with an open mind.  They are actually paid to have an open mind in matters of public policy.

Lying Mixed With Science Denialism

Shockingly, Mayor Martinez later denied she ever made the “Let me indicate for you…” announcement.  It’s not as if these meetings are not recorded and on the City’s website for all to see.  So we're not sure what she thinks she's doing with this.

The dreadful behavior exhibited around the June 15th Council decision is added to Ms Martinez’s blanket rejection of scientifically collected housing data by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) of which Emeryville is a dues paying member.  Mayor Martinez continued to vote to give developers a free pass, increasing their negotiating strength with her constantly stated position that Emeryville needs more (market rate) housing.  Her housing claims exactly mirror developers' and are in direct contradiction to ABAG who reports that our town is far ahead of our housing mandate every measuring period.  The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported on this, to Ms Martinez's dismay.

The lone Emeryville City Council member who utterly rejects ABAG’s housing data, “I think the ABAG recommendations are too low”  she told the Tattler in 2018, Ms Martinez refuses to tell the people how she knows that or how much housing Emeryville should have.  This position of hers means she is not working to leverage Emeryville’s value when developers come knocking with their housing project proposals.  If we are always desperate for more housing, we'll let developers have their way with us, leading to less livability for existing residents in the negotiations.  

And that leads us into another area of bad policy from Mayor Martinez: Emeryville’s lack of action on delivering more parks to our worst-city-in-the-Bay-Area park acreage to resident ratio.  Emeryville added zero new park acreage during her term (and only one acre during her entire City Council term of seven years despite the City adding more than 2000 new residents during that time).

For all these reasons (especially lying to the people) plus a lack of action for bike transportation and no action on getting a public library like she promised (see question #10) , Mayor Martinez gets a D- .  Not a fail, but almost.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Vice Mayor Donahue Skipped Over for Mayor

 Council Colleagues Deny Vice Mayor the Mayoralty

Loss of Confidence in his Abilities Cited

Not To Be Mayor Scott Donahue
His colleagues expressed a
loss of confidence in him.

Mayor Dianne Martinez announced at the December 7th City Council meeting “It is with a heavy heart and for the health of the City...” she would join with three of her colleagues in stopping Vice Mayor Scott Donahue from becoming mayor as he was set to do Tuesday night.  Losing Ms Martinez's support spelled doom for the Vice Mayor’s mayoral prospects who fully expected to be voted in as mayor as is the customary tradition in Emeryville.  Instead it was Council member John Bauters who got the nod Tuesday evening when his colleagues voted for him to become the next mayor.

In what was likely an example of cultural groupthink 'go along to get along', newly elected Courtney Welch, who had been sworn in as a Council member only moments before, joined in with the vote to elevate Councilman Bauters and to stop the Vice Mayor, having had no relationship with Mr Donahue at all.    

The vote represented a rare but not unheard of skipping of a Council member in line successionally to be elevated as mayor.  After initially expressing interest in and lobbying for the mayor position, Vice Mayor Donahue ultimately joined with his colleagues in what turned out to be a unanimous 5-0 vote for Mr Bauters.  Councilwoman Ally Medina was selected as the new vice mayor, also in a unanimous 5-0 vote.  

Normally, each Council member gets a turn as mayor for a year after serving for a year as vice mayor.  Only a few times has the line of mayoral succession been upset before.

Emeryville's New Mayor
John Bauters
Tuesday night, looming budgetary problems seemed to be on the Council’s mind and that was cited as the primary reason for the vote for Mr Bauters.  Councilwoman Medina, who expressed a lack of confidence in Mr Donahue’s abilities, nominated Mr Bauters after she said next year will be very difficult to balance the budget, invoking an impending structural budget crisis.  “We’ll likely need a revenue generating ballot measure during the mid term year” she said, adding “Our city will be best served stewarded by a member of Council who has spent years diving into these [budgetary] details”.  She praised Mr Bauters’ fiscal expertise as she forwarded his name, skipping Mr Donahue.  

Skipping fellow Council members’ their due to serve as mayor is not unprecedented but it has been rare in Emeryville over the decades.  It has historically happened when a Council member angered or embarrassed their colleagues.  In the 1990’s Council member Greg Harper, the lone progressive on a very conservative council at the time, was denied his turn as mayor as was former council member Ken Bukowski later, who fell out of favor among his colleagues after a damning New York Times article about his illicit drug use.  Forming an alliance, once, a Council member was skipped in order to help a different and vulnerable colleague who needed the perceived gravitas the mayoralty provides to assist him for the following November election.

Mr Bauters will serve as mayor for one year followed by Ms Medina....unless there's more ruffled feathers and another kerfuffle in the Council chambers next December.