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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Government Favoritism (in Neon) in Renaming of Emeryville Train Station

Doubt Emeryville's Pro-Developer Culture?

It's in Blue Neon at 5885 Horton Street

News Analysis

This last week, Rich Robbins, the CEO of the San Rafael based Wareham Development Corporation, repaid former Emeryville City Councilwoman Nora Davis posthumously, for all the tax breaks and outright gifts of cash from the public coffers she extended to the development giant over the years with the erection of a sign proclaiming Emeryville’s popular train station henceforth be called the Nora Davis Emeryville Transit Center Station.  The renaming will ripple through vacationer’s and commuter’s macrocosm as they become accustomed to the change appearing on new brochures and passenger train websites. The legendary Amtrak Zephyr will now be listed as the route from the historic Chicago Union Station to the Nora Davis Emeryville Station.  Travelers on California’s iconic Capital Corridor train will board at Sacramento Valley Station and disembark at Emeryville's Nora Davis Station.

Seemingly public infrastructure, the train riding public would be surprised to know the Emeryville station is actually private property.  Mr Robbins himself owns our local train station.  He built it and he owns it but with a proviso that the public be allowed to use it as if it were part of the public commons.  But that’s also why he gets to name the station after his favorite City Council member who ruled our town from the Council dais for 29 years before she passed away in 2020.

Councilwoman Davis was famous for her pro-developer philosophy and of all the developers she showered government largess upon, and there were many, none were sanctioned at the level of her favorite, Rich Robbins of Wareham.  

The renaming of the train station by Mr Robbins comes after a push by many in the Emeryville business community to name all manner of public infrastructure after the deceased City Councilwoman for all she did for them as well.  Proposals included renaming Doyle/Hollis Park as Nora Davis Park and the new bike/pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks at the Bay Street Mall as Nora Davis Bridge.  Either out of ignorance or a sense of taunting (owning the libs?), the business community has never acknowledged the fact that when she was on our Council, Ms Davis actually fought against these two public infrastructure projects.  The existing City Council knows Ms Davis’ record and they rebuffed the business community’s proposals.  Indeed, Council member Davis made the city the current City Council is struggling to remake.  Ms Davis saw Emeryville as developers at the time saw it: a low slung, low density suburban style town with lots of strip malls with baking asphalt in front, serviced by anti-bike anti-pedestrian ‘stroads’ choked with auto traffic inching towards the copious at-grade free parking.  That is Nora Davis’ actual legacy.

But all that is forgotten now by Rich Robbins of Wareham who returns favors and doesn’t forget a generous friend, even in death.  For us, the Nora Davis Emeryville Transit Center Station will always be there as a reminder about who the levers of power in government are supposed to be for.

The two most powerful people
in Emeryville:
Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
and his friend the late
Councilwoman Nora Davis

Story earns one Nora smile...

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Videographer Enters City Hall Setting Off A Panic

Anonymous Videographer Challenges City Hall's Insistance the Public Identify Themselves

An Emeryville City Hall 'epic fail' was featured in a video that has gone viral this week.  The video (below), recorded a couple of weeks ago by a YouTuber with 190 thousand subscribers who runs a channel called Bay Area Transparency, shows panicked City Hall employees who called the police on the man because he was video recording the publicly accessible parts of the building.  The police arrived but because the videographer was not breaking any laws, they allowed him to continue on, to the dismay of the City Manager, the City Attorney, the City Clerk and lots of lower level staffers with their hair on fire.  The embarrassing video has been seen by 145 thousand people as of the posting of this story.

At issue, besides the scary camera, was the young man's refusal to sign in at the front desk, a long standing policy at Emeryville City Hall, a policy without the force of law.  The cameraman tries to calm down the public servants by explaining, correctly, that people don't have to surrender their Fourth Amendment rights to access publicly accessible government buildings.  Any areas of City Hall that are not specifically for authorized personal only, and properly signed to indicate that, are open to the public.

Bay Area Transparency has been active since 2019 and has 142 videos with 44 million views with an average of 290 thousand views per day.  It is part of a whole genre of YouTube channels conducting 'First Amendment audits' by video recording in public forums to document government employees and their acceptance or lack of acceptance of people's First Amendment rights.  These videos have shown many police departments in the Bay Area and beyond, authoritarian and prone to falsely arrest members of the public who record police activities.  The Emeryville police featured in the video show a reasonable level of professionalism, unlike the City Hall staff.

To the Emeryville City Hall staff: You can ask us to sign in at the front desk (without coercion) when we come to our city hall but we don't have to do it if we don't want to.  We can chose to access our government anonymously.  Don't call the police on people not breaking the law in their own building.  And calm down for christ's sake.  It's a public building and the public is invited in to partake in their government, even those who have scary cameras and who know their rights.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Rare Open City Council Seat in November: Councilman Scott Donahue to Step Down

 Council Member Donahue Will Not Seek Re-Election in November 

The bi-annual Emeryville City Council election season begins with a surprise announcement of a rare open seat for this November’s election by Council member Scott Donahue.  Mr Donahue, in a terse statement to the public, announced he will not seek a 3rd four year term on the Council. 

City Councilman
Scott Donahue

Council watchers have had to speculate as to why, after he did not offer a reason publicly at the surprise City Council announcement.  However, he privately told the Tattler only that he wished to concentrate more fully on his life-long vocation as a sculptor, leaving aside open speculation about disrespect shown to him by his Council colleagues.  As reported by the Tattler in December 2021, then Vice Mayor Donahue was skipped over for mayor in favor of current Mayor John Bauters after his colleagues refused to nominate him.  Leading the drive to overturn a normally mundane mayor selection procedure, Council member Ally Medina urged the rest of the Council to vote to skip Donahue, citing his lack of experience with budgetary issues. 

Council member Donahue, who first became a Council member in 2014 after receiving an endorsement by the premier community activist group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE), did not offer any comment on the snubbing by his colleagues as a factor in his decision to not seek re-election.  Mr Donahue's running mate in the last two elections, Council member Dianne Martinez did not comment on the surprise announcement. 

Council member Donahue will step down in December as his replacement is sworn in at a regular City Council meeting

Monday, July 4, 2022

Emergency Diarrhea? Tough luck. No Public Bathroom at Emeryville Police Station

 No Public Toilet at the Public Building?

No Shit.

Elderly People, People in Wheelchairs, People With Intestinal Diseases Are All S.O.L.

Have you ever had emergency diarrhea out in public when you’re nowhere near a bathroom?  Yeah, it’s not a nice feeling.  How would it make you feel if you knew there was a public bathroom mere steps away but the police said NO, you may not use it, go find a bathroom elsewhere, you’re on your own.  Good luck with that.  Absurd and cruel though it may be, that’s what people get who go to the Emeryville police station.  The station, built in the 1970s has two public bathrooms, just like every other Bay Area police station, but the police here have closed off the public bathrooms to the public, leaving the public...well, shit outta luck.

That’s right.  Emeryville spent $3.7 million dollars on a remodel of the police station in 2012 but they failed to include even a single bathroom the public can use.  Some remodel.  If you need to use your police station you paid for and you drank too much coffee or you have sudden diarrhea, you will not be allowed to use either one of the original two bathrooms just off the public lobby behind a pair of locked doors.  The police say NO.  Even in an emergency.  NO even with with a requested police escort.  The public was not accounted for when $3.7 million of public money was spent to ‘improve’ the Emeryville police station.


Elderly people, people in wheelchairs or with emergency diarrhea are directed to travel three quarters of a mile west on Powell Street to the public bathrooms at the Emeryville Marina.  Again, good luck with that.

We’re making light of it here but it’s not funny actually.  Healthy and robust young people aren’t very inconvenienced by having to hold it while they make a police report or any other police services they’re getting but whole classes of people are not free to use their police station at all because of this.  People like the elderly, wheelchair people or those with any number of conditions or diseases that necessitate them being close by a bathroom.  Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) like colitis or Crohn’s disease alone affect 1.6 million Americans.  2.7 million Americans are in wheelchairs.  Our police station is not available for them unless they’re willing to take a big chance with a terrible outcome. 

People with Inflammatory Bowel Disease
alone make up 1.3% of the population.
That means 180 people just within Emeryville.
They can't wait to go another 3/4 mile
to the next public bathroom.  Government
buildings open to the public should have
publicly accessible bathrooms according to
the government's own regulations. 


The State of California stipulates that all public and privately owned buildings where the public gathers be equipped with enough restrooms to meet the needs of the public.  Except in Emeryville apparently.  The no bathroom thing is another a case of a special lack of minimum accommodation to the public the police here are claiming.   Add this to the lack of a fire escape in the public lobby at the police station revealed by the Tattler in 2018.  In that case, after much City Council and staff deliberation, the police, against the advice of the Alameda County Fire Marshall, just said NO to adding a fire escape, the public will have to take a risk of death when they use the Emeryville police station.  So an existing fire escape was taken away from the public at the police station building in the 2012 remodel.

Of course the lack of a public bathroom at a standalone public building isn’t as dangerous as no fire escape but it is a hallmark of a city that is not sensitive to the needs of all.  In a check to see how bad the police here are, we inquired at several Bay Area police stations and we found Emeryville's police stand alone.  Not one other municipal police department in the East Bay (or likely beyond) fails to provide a public bathroom.  Police personnel in the cities we talked with were shocked that the Emeryville police are so mean.

Private businesses where the public congregates like restaurants, movie theaters, churches and shopping malls are required by law to provide public bathrooms.  The government is the agency that polices this regulation.  Like with fire escape law, businesses must comply with the public bathroom law but not the government itself says Emeryville.  Meanwhile, prudence and good will suggests at least a sign warning about there being no bathroom available to the public be placed conspicuously on the front of the building.

Emeryville Police Station Public Lobby
There are two formerly public bathrooms located just behind the locked doors
on the left.  The doors keeping the public away from the bathrooms were
part of the $3.7 million remodel of the police building.  Also locked behind the doors
are the emergency fire escape stairs.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Emeryville is One of the Last Cities to Open Up Public Meetings to In-Person

Emeryville Vies With Oakland to be Last in Democracy

Both Cities are the Last Holdouts for Public Meetings

Opinion/News Analysis

As the Covid pandemic settles down into epidemic status, cities across the Bay Area are opening their city council meetings back up for full public in-person participation.  It’s a flowering of democracy after the long dark night.   However, two cities continue to be closed; Emeryville and Oakland.  They're the last holdouts.  

For months now, the State of California has allowed cities their discretion for opening the people’s city halls to the people and Emeryville’s neighbors (save Oakland) have done that.  

The following neighboring cities have completely opened up for full democracy:

  • Berkeley
  • Hayward 
  • Piedmont 
  • Orinda
  • Walnut Creek 
  • El Cerrito

The following cities are now in the process of opening back up:

  • Lafayette 
  • Alameda

The following cities are closed indefinitely:

  • Oakland
  • Emeryville 

During the pandemic, cities used Zoom to try to facilitate the people being able to still participate in their government but online access was shown to be a pale and anemic simulacrum of democracy.  Whole classes of people, including the elderly and the poor were shut out.  Anytime entire classes of people are (effectively) barred, it cannot be described as democratic.  And that holds true for Emeryville today.  Emeryville has not had democracy since March 19th 2020.

Hayward City Hall

Poor people and even elderly people can come here
and freely speak out about government policies.
So why does our city council not want to open City Hall back up for full throated democracy?  They are invoking the fear of Covid.  Does that mean our city council thinks neighboring city councils are reckless for opening up?  Does the Emeryville city council think the Berkeley city council is negligent and imprudent?  Do they think the city council of Hayward is foolhardy and thoughtless?  Is the Walnut Creek city council brash and audacious? Or maybe it’s the Emeryville city council.  Maybe the Emeryville city council is just more comfortable keeping meetings closed.

The public is messy, loud and opinionated.  They have strong opinions and they don’t mind telling their local government about it.  The elderly and the poor too.  Sometimes they’re not happy with policies coming out of City Hall.  If they could be silenced, the meetings would be so much more comfortable for the city council.  Who wants to be yelled at and berated? 

The public speaking freely can be messy.
The establishment authority sometimes
doesn't like it so much.

But the Emeryville city council and the staff are paid to take the public being unhappy with them.  It’s supposed to be part of the job.  This city council likes to attack public commenters who are critical.  When they attack public commenters, they show us they don’t accept the compact with the public that government employees are required to accept.  Is this anti-democratic culture at Emeryville City Hall affecting the city council’s decision to keep public meetings closed?  Or is it that they simply want to protect us from disease as they say (and Berkeley doesn't)?  

We’re keeping tabs on this and it doesn't look good for Emeryville.  Right now it’s the City of Oakland and the City of Emeryville neck and neck in last place for democracy.  Oakland?   Really, Emeryville?  Someone should tell Emeryville that Oakland is a low bar.  

Is Emeryville going to wait until the State of California finally forces them to open up their meetings for democracy?  Only our city council, the same city council that publicly attacks dissenters that have the audacity of speaking out in full throated democratic fashion, knows for sure.

Elderly people commonly have a tough time with these 
computer contraptions.  Maybe it's easier to just forget about 
speaking out at the online city council meeting.  Judge Judy beckons
and she's on at the same time as the city council meetings.


Sunday, June 19, 2022

Delinquent Filing By Affordable Housing Beneficiary Threw Off Emeryville Investigators

Missed Arias Filing Deadlines With State 

Threw Emeryville Investigators Off Trail 

Proper Filings Would Have Shown Emeryville Housing Investigators "Hyper Local" Rob Arias Actually Lives in Far Off Pleasant Hill 

Opinion/News Analysis

Rob Arias
Defrauded Emeryville's
Affordable Housing Program. 
His Pleasant Hill address was not
filed until after he was caught.
Rob Arias, the editor of the Emeryville centric news blog the E’Ville Eye, received a notice of delinquency from the California Secretary of State warning if he didn’t file his required biannual Statement of Information for his business, after fining him, the State would shut down his company and seize the name.  Mr Arias had become delinquent in 2019, the same time he and his wife bought a home in the Contra Costa County village of Pleasant Hill according to publicly accessible documents at the Secretary of State’s office and the Contra Costa County Assesor’s office.  This information reveals a fast and loose handling of required filings by Mr Arias that could have been part of an attempt to hide damning evidence from investigators for the City of Emeryville’s Below Market Rate affordable housing program Mr Arias was later found to have defrauded.  Beneficiaries of the BMR program as Mr Arias was, are required to live in their units.

The documents Mr Arias filed with California's Secretary of State showed his last place of business was on Park Avenue in Emeryville in 2017.  But then he failed to file for his business in 2019, as was required.  Instead Mr Arias waited until after City investigators discovered he had defrauded Emeryville’s BMR housing program in June 2021 (because didn’t live in Emeryville anymore). Then in September of 2021, after the City moved in on him, effectuating a forced sale of his unit, and two years overdue with the State, Rob finally brought his business filings into good standing with Sacramento, his address now shown as Pleasant Hill California.  

Mr Arias was able to stall and ride out threats from Sacramento for more than two years until he finally sold his Emeryville BMR unit, thereby keeping his Pleasant Hill address hidden from Emeryville housing investigators.  Thus, Rob never had to lie to the California Secretary of State, an organization with an impressive legal department and a potent police force, the state Board of Equalization, that is feared by cheats up and down the state. 

E'Ville Eye Address is Now Pleasant Hill
P'Hill Eye?

Rob's Pleasant Hill business statement filed  
with the State of California.  Before this
he was delinquent with the state for two years
while the City of Emeryville investigated him.
Seeking to prove Arias lived in Pleasant Hill,
the City was thrown off because there was no business
document linking him to his Pleasant Hill address.
Rob still keeps an Emeryville PO box,
probably to continue some scam.

Of note is the fact that these Secretary of State public documents record the applicant’s place of business and so the two years Mr Arias was in violation with the State are the same two years that he now claims he was still living and doing business in Emeryville.  Apparent to everyone now, Rob was living in Pleasant Hill in 2019 and if this business filing gap was indeed an attempt to hide from the City of Emeryville’s BMR program, it is pretty glaring.  The City took ownership of Rob’s unit after he finally admitted he was not living in Emeryville and they have since sold the unit to a needy party as the BMR program dictates.

Rob went missing from Emeryville in 2019 when he didn’t tell his former neighbors on Park Avenue he and his wife had bought their new $630,000 (now valued at $974,000) home in Pleasant Hill.  Several Park Avenue neighbors report in May of 2019, they suddenly stopped seeing Rob on his daily dog walking rounds or at any local businesses he formally had frequented or indeed anywhere in town.  Rob, for what it is worth, is still telling his E’Ville Eye readers he moved out of Emeryville in 2021 for some reason known only to Rob.  He left our city, but he didn't want to leave a bunch of money on the table here.  He had built up a pretty good business here with its corporate paymasters made up of appreciative businesses in Emeryville.

He Likes to Tell Us How To Vote In Our Elections

So what are we to make of the far flung suburban dwelling Rob Arias who in addition to lying about his place of residence, is fond of telling us how to vote in our town?  Rob quit Emeryville, yes, but he hasn’t quit our body politic or the money he draws from his heavily monetized, corporate underwritten “hyper local” news blog.  He vacated Emeryville without telling anyone, moving 30 miles east, to the other side of the hills, to a cul-de-sac adjacent to a golf course in a leafy suburban village teeming with Republicans while defrauding the City by continuing to hold his government subsidized affordable condo unit in Emeryville, over time netting impressive real estate value gains.

Another Scam
Rob's Next Door Emeryville Page

He's still a 'Lead' (moderator) at the site where 
Emeryville residency is required.

Rob dropped hints about his plans back in 2019.  He penned a diatribe addressed to the City Council on May 6th 2019 wherein he told them “This city is not worthy of my efforts”.  Two days later, he and his wife closed escrow on their home on the shady cul-de-sac with the Kentucky bluegrass front lawn adjacent to the Contra Costa Country Club.  But he’s still going to tell us how to vote in our elections here in Emeryville because he knows what’s best for us presumably.

Next Door Scam

Meanwhile, Mr Arias is continuing on with another fraud here in our town.  He is a moderator at the website Next Door Emeryville, where he recently blasted Mayor John Bauters for not being a member there, presumably because this pet site of his would benefit from the gravitas of Emeryville’s mayor being a member among other reasons.  Rob wants to engage Emeryville voters in the negative and often hate-filled space on Next Door where as moderator, he can manipulate the conversation.  He has been publicly critical of Mayor Bauters’ Twitter account where Mr Bauters has more than 23,000 followers and where the conversation about Emeryville is informative and elevated and where Rob can’t direct the narrative.

The Contra Costa County Country Club
Typical fairway scene located next to Rob's Pleasant Hill home.

Over at Next Door Emeryville Rob likes to advertise the E’Ville Eye and (to leverage his moderator status) to remove people he doesn’t like who actually do live in Emeryville. The corporate policy at Next Door incidentally states moderators and members are required to live in the cities where the site operates.  Members of Next Door Emeryville MUST live in Emeryville.  Rob has gotten past that, presumably, by lying to Next Door corporate about his place of residence.

Out-of-Towners Want to Make Money Off Emeryville

Rob Arias continues to crow about Emeryville but we shouldn’t listen to somebody that lives in suburbia about how to fashion our city.  We should make our city the way WE want, not according to the dictates of out-of-town interlopers, be they wealthy developers with an eye towards pulling profits out of our city or Rob Arias for the same reasons.  We have a suggestion for Rob: start an actual hyper-local news blog in the town you really live in; you can call it The Pleasant Hill Town Crier or the P'Hill Eye. 

As election season approaches this summer with two City Council seats to be decided by the people of Emeryville, we should tune out this guy that has tuned us out.  He has no interest in how our city evolves except for how he can bump up his personal bank account.  He doesn’t care about Emeryville and we shouldn’t care about him or the didactic political prognostications he has for us.

Rob Arias Country

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.

'No comment' from
Emeryville City
government earns one
smiling Nora Davis

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.