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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Breaking News: Councilman Christian Patz Announces He Will Quit the Council

 Breaking: City Council Member to Quit Position

Christian Patz
Will leave his position as
City Council member.
Tonight, Emeryville City Councilman Christian Patz announced he is "formally stepping down" from his position on the City Council, effective as soon as is practical as he has accepted employment out of the Bay Area.   Mr Patz shocked his colleagues at the Council announcements section held at the beginning of the meeting.  Member Patz expressed he has lived in Emeryville for 18 years and that he is "truly saddened" at his leaving the City Council. 
He indicated he will keep his home in Emeryville but he and his family will be moving to Redding where he will be Executive Director for Shasta County 's special education program.   Mayor Dianne Martinez, after expressing she is "shocked and saddened" by the surprise announcement, stated future Council agenda items will address how the vacant position will be filled.  She stated she expects there will be "no gaps" on the Council as a result of Council member Patz's leaving.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Letter to the Tattler: Charlotte Danielson-Chang

 Letter to the Tattler: Charlotte Danielsson-Chang

Racism, Ageism Charged in City Council Planning Commission Selection


Watergate resident Charlotte Danielsson-Chang (bio below) writes to the Tattler about a recent selection of two new Planning Commissioners by the City Council whom she says were not properly selected.  Ms Danielsson-Chang, an applicant for the position of Planning Commissioner herself, was among four rejected  by the Council on March 16th (https://emeryville.granicus.com/player/clip/1949?view_id=5&redirect=true)   She charges the City Council with bias and racism among other improprieties in their selection of  Erica Zepko and Henry Symons (pictured below) to serve on the Commission.  As a preamble to her letter, Ms Danielsson-Chang sent the following to the Tattler:

Ethics rules for public officials require fair process and public officials also have a duty of impartiality and merit-based decision making. With the exception of Scott Donahue, I believe the other City Councilmembers violated these ethics rules during the Planning Commission appointments process.  There were also elements of systemic racism and ageism in the process; a city council that considers itself progressive should at a minimum understand that electing insiders has the effect of bolstering systemic racism, ageism, and discouraging wider civic involvement by the community.” 

— Charlotte Danielsson-Chang


To the Emeryville Tattler Readers-

by Charlotte Danielsson-Chang

After days of complete shock over the bias and ethical violations I witnessed at an Emeryville City Council meeting on March 16th, I felt compelled to write an apology email to Dr. Eugene Tssui, a renowned Asian-American architect with over 30 years experience, for the treatment he received by the Emeryville City Council during his application for the Planning Commission. As a fellow Planning Commission applicant, I had no say over what happened but I felt like someone…anyone…needed to say the simple words of “I’m sorry that you were not treated fairly and not given the respect you deserved.”  

Ethics rules for public officials require merit-based decision making.

Dr Eugene Tssui has 32 years of experience and holds multiple advanced degrees in Architecture and City & Regional Planning, including two masters and a PhD from UC Berkeley. He is the author of 7 international books on architecture, city planning, ecology, biomimicry and ecological behavior change and has served as professor and instructor at 5 different universities including UC Berkeley. During his time as a Visiting Research Scholar at Harvard, he researched and developed biomimicry principles for developing construction materials that mimic the characteristics of zoological and botanical organisms. There has even been a documentary made about him. Before climate change, green building, conservation, using recycled materials were even words that existed in our vocabulary, Dr. Tssui was championing these concepts in urban planning and architecture.  The two candidates the City Council chose over Dr. Tssui? One is a mortgage broker working for a startup who graduated in 2010 that has only lived in Emeryville for 1.8 years; the other, a legislative liaison that graduated in 2016 that has lived in Emeryville for 7 years. Current Planning Commissioner C Tito Young  commented, “Dr. Tssui is what I would call a true ‘Renaissance Man.’  This is not a title, this is not a job description, and cannot be learned or taught. It is the ability to problem solve using multiple backgrounds, professional or otherwise, to obtain a solution.  It is more than a being purely sensitive because it entails a multidimensional level of observance.  In my lifetime, I have only met a handful of persons that may fall in that category.  They have the ability to realize the scope as a whole and not a scope as a part.  They are not swayed by popular belief or by any similar gains.  They simply want to make the built environment better, more interesting, and challenging to the social norm for people of many walks of life.”

Ethics rules for public officials require fair process and public officials also have a duty of impartiality.

With the exception of Councilmember Scott Donahue, the remaining Councilmembers violated all of these ethical rules on March 16th.  ”Are you familiar with the City of Emeryville’s Proposed Housing Expenditure Plan for Measure C?” asked Councilmember John Bauters of the applicants. Of course, no one but the two candidates selected who had spent time on the Housing Committee recently were likely to know the answer to that because it wasn’t one of the 5 questions interviewees were given in advance of the interview.  It also wasn’t even under the Planning Commission documents that your A+ type applicants would have reviewed prior to the interview; in fact, it was something that the Housing Committee (not the Planning Commission) had worked on recently. True, the City Council had voted on it at a meeting a few weeks prior to the March 16th interview for Planning Commissioner but the minutes of that meeting were not published until March 17th…the day after the Planning Commission interview.  Knowledge of Measure C’s Housing Expenditure Plan became the pivotal deciding factor for all of the Councilmembers with the exception of Scott Donahue.  This could lead any reasonable observer to wonder if this was not just a violation of fair process but also a violation of impartiality…or even a sign that the two chosen applicants had been preselected. “It baffles me that the city would not jump at the chance to have a pre-eminently qualified architect to be on the planning commission, one that is in the forefront of conservation and sustainability. The decision was not in the best interest of Emeryville, and I believe something was not right with the process.” Joe Lutz, former Emeryville Planning Commissioner for over 12 years and 45+ year resident of Watergate.  The Planning Commission handles a wide variety of issues of which affordable housing is only one element. Per the municipal code, the planning commission’s duties include residential, commercial, and industrial districts, traffic and parking conditions, boulevards, street openings and widenings, public parks, playgrounds, and other recreational areas, flood control, subdivisions.  Measure C was passed in July 2018 and numerous City Council planning commission selection meetings have been held since then.  Interestingly, knowledge of Measure C was not a deciding factor in those appointments…in fact, it was never even brought up as a question.  Note, also that appointment as a Planning Commissioner does not require any prior experience on another committee per the municipal code nor per prior practice of the City Council. “All of the candidates seemed reasonably qualified, however, in light of the mandate of the Planning Commission I was surprised that the Council chose not to select Eugene for one of the two Commission positions given his extraordinary qualifications. It’s a shame not to take advantage of this long-time Emeryville resident’s experience and commitment to city planning,” stated Steve Shane, Vice Chairperson of the City of Emeryville’s Commission on Aging.  

During the decision portion of the meeting, there wasn’t even a pretense of impartiality.  As Mayor, Dianne Martinez was responsible for leading the discussion and laying out the impartial criteria for decision making--a task she delegated to Councilmember John Bauters. Councilmember Bauters started off the discussion by stating that knowledge of Measure C was the deciding factor for the Planning Commission appointments.  He then proceeded to personally vouch for one of the applicants chosen because of his interactions with him. Councilmember Ally Medina then followed suit by herself endorsing that applicant as well.  Both Councilmembers then shared personal details about both applicants not in the record and actually used those details as additional criteria for their selection.  Of the first chosen applicant, Councilmember Bauters stated “he would be a phenomenal addition…..with his young family here in Emeryville I just think he offers a really excellent perspective.”  Councilmember Medina stated she was very impressed by the second chosen applicant who failed to attend due to a family emergency and stated “in an emergency situation she took the time to fill up the answers to our questions so she could still be considered tonight and I think that speaks to a level of commitment and quite frankly this committee requires a great deal of commitment.” Mayor Martinez, complicit in her silence during the inappropriate comments, ultimately took the path of least resistance by whole-heartedly agreeing with Bauters and Medina. 

What’s the cost of the bias to the community?


Narrow vision hurts Emeryville

“Housing already has its own committee.  Using housing as the deciding factor for Planning Commission appointments, that is just beyond dumb.  It’s such a narrow criteria, it makes me question whether those City Councilmembers are smart enough to be directing the city,” Celeste Burrows a 14 year member of Emeryville’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, 2 year member of the Council on Aging, and a resident of Emeryville for 27 years. State law requires that each city submit a general plan (i.e. blueprint for meeting the community’s long-term vision for the future) and provide annual updates on the progress of the city towards that plan.  The 9 elements of the General Plan are Land Use, Circulation, Housing, Safety, Noise, Conservation, Open Space, Urban Design and Sustainability and the General Plan is broken down into 79 specific actions that are to be completed in a 20 year period starting in 2009. Note, affordable housing is a subsection of the general housing element.  In the General Plan Annual Progress Report for 2020 (report date 2/18/2021) that the Emeryville city staff submitted to the Emeryville Planning Commission, it was noted that out of the 79 actions required in the General Plan, only 16 have actually been completed, 59 had some progress made on them in 2020, and 4 had no progress. 11 years into a 20 year plan, only completed 20% of the required actions have been completed!

Although Dr. Tssui and I had never met, or even spoken, before that City Council meeting, we both applied for the Planning Commission with the same thought…that it’s ridiculous that Emeryville is falling behind when it could so easily achieve its General Plan goals well in advance of its anticipated timeline if it stopped trying to reinvent the wheel! We both held decades of experience and connections from different parts of the world that had already successfully accomplished all of the things that Emeryville’s General Plan was attempting to do in short timeframes.  My 22 years as a California attorney helping US tech companies and companies from throughout the world establish here along with my nonprofit work bridging innovation between Europe and Silicon Valley has given me unique knowledge of and connections in cities such as (1) Copenhagen, Denmark—a city that has already successfully built a giant network of bike paths and lanes and even an extensive Cycle Super Highway that joins over 25 municipalities and the Capital.  That city has accomplished these goals to the point that 9 out of 10 people there now own a bike and 40% of all commutes are via bike and only 29% of households now own a car; (2) Stockholm, Sweden—a city that has the highest number of eco hotels in the world and it is one of the only cities in the world that recycles all of its household waste; (3) Oslo, Norway—the city that has the most electric cars per capita in the world and has a car-free city center; (4) Estonia—a country that has been named “the most advanced digital society in the world” because it has efficient, secure and transparent ecosystem where 99% of governmental services are online. Dr. Tssui’s architectural and city planning expertise and network extends to China. He has taught architecture and city planning at four of China's greatest universities and has designed two towns and cities in China.  Dr. Tssui commented that “China has proven itself in its seriousness, know-how, and be on-time and on-budget mentality, to create infrastructure, buildings, and landscapes. In only two generations, China has gone from a back-water, agrarian society with no economic ranking, to the most powerful economic engine in the world. It has moved from absolute poverty to the middle class, and has cornered the market on 5G electronics, pharmaceuticals, and bought the entire continent of Africa.” Dr. Tssui continued enthusiastically saying “China is a country that finished a 57 story skyscraper in 19 days and rebuilt a 4-way, 8-lane, uni-directional, freeway intersection in downtown Beijing in 18 hours! Imagine what even just a fragment of that know-how could do for Emeryville!” 


Lack of Geographical Representation Leading to 25% of Emeryville being voiceless; enforcing ageism and systemic racism

Per the municipal code, the City Council “shall attempt to appoint Planning Commissioners in such a manner that the various geographic districts of the City are represented by a Commissioner.” The two applicants chosen were from districts already represented on the Planning Commission.  “Watergate represents a sizable portion of city residents, it remains unrepresented on the planning commission, and has so for years,” commented Joe Lutz. Both Dr. Tssui and I are residents of Watergate on the Peninsula, a community that represents roughly 25% of the city’s population and continues to be voiceless in planning matters because it has no representation on the Planning Commission. Watergate was built in the 1970s and many of its original residents still reside there.  When Dr. Tssui talked with Councilmember Bauters after the City Council meeting about the Planning Commission decision, Councilmember Bauters told him “Eugene, you would be perfect for our Commission on Aging…you should apply for that.” Surely, someone in their 60s is still capable of using their professional expertise to benefit the city in their area of expertise and not only regarding issues of aging! In addition to that, 30% of the population of Emeryville is Asian but our city committees and commissions don’t reflect that and the addition of Dr. Tssui would have been an important step toward balancing out the representation within the city. In the current climate of increased anti-Asian hate that affects so many the actions of the City Council seem especially egregious. A city council that considers itself progressive should at a minimum understand that electing insiders has the effect of bolstering systemic racism, ageism, and discouraging wider civic involvement by the community.  Emeryville’s current City Council has very much benefitted from the low civic involvement of the city. Councilmembers Bauters, Medina, and Patz just received new four year terms without an election because no one came forward to challenge them so the formality of an election was avoided altogether.  In a city of over 12,000 people, Mayor Martinez holds her office because of a mere 1471 votes.  

What’s next?

Dr. Tssui says his goal for Emeryville is “to initiate and reinforce a higher degree of development and constructable conceptual design for the City, to create a dynamic and proactive program of ecological behavioral change, and to introduce design concepts that support a zero to minimum footprint on the planet, restore the natural environment, minimize energy use, create disaster-free architecture, help to unify the City's east, west, north and south sides, and give a new future thinking character and excitement to the City” and he states adamantly that he “will not give up.” 

As for me, I don’t give up either.  This experience inspired me to organize a free virtual conference (www.futurecitiestoday.com) for June 10th where Dr. Tssui, along with other innovators and leaders from around the world, will show us how we can combat climate change through innovative architecture; how we can build a people-focused work environment and wellness based city with a focus on sustainability, pedestrian focused city, bike highways, carless city centers…now, not 10 years from now; how we can prepare our energy systems for our “new normal“ of extreme weather events (avoiding Texas winter storm outage and California rolling blackouts); and how innovative startups from around the world already have the solutions for our local issues.



Charlotte Danielsson-Chang received her JD from Stanford Law School and her Bachelor’s degree in Economics & Political Science from Berkeley.  She has practiced corporate law & business immigration law for technology companies since 1998. She is committed to pro bono/nonprofit work focusing on increasing the exchange of technology & innovation between countries around the world and the United
States.  Charlotte is an Ambassador for MIT Technology Review and is responsible for nominating Innovators Under 35 who have made outstanding technological achievements as entrepreneurs, inventors, visionaries, pioneers and humanitarians. Charlotte currently serves as a Commissioner for the Alameda County Human Relations Commission. 


Erica Zepko
Newly selected Planning Commissioner

Henry Symons
Newly selected Planning Commissioner

Saturday, April 24, 2021

New Police Chief Moves to Increase Police Accountability

 New Chief Unilaterally Increases Police Accountability

Town Hall Public Debate on Militarization,

Citizen Complaints Democratized

Emeryville’s new Chief of Police, Jeffery Jennings, indicated this week he will usher in greater accountability and transparency at the police department by agreeing to a open town hall style public meeting addressing police use of force and re-writing the citizen complaint code against officers with a higher degree of probity and openness.  The town hall meeting will likely be held off until the fall owing to the COVID pandemic but the re-write of the complaint code will begin much sooner says the Chief.

The Chief’s democratic demeanor, representing a thawing of previous intractability at the EPD on these two issues, will bring a new local level of community engagement for the department against a backdrop of greater calls for police accountability nation-wide. 

As it stands now, a citizen who wishes to make a complaint against an Emeryville police officer is asked to surrender their name, their address and their date of birth, all expressly counter to citizen’s right to make complaints anonymously.  Chief Jennings agrees the way the code is written now is improper and he told the Tattler April 20th he “will make it right” so that it better comports with state law.  The questions about complainants’ identity will be clearly qualified that answers given are strictly on a voluntary basis.  The date of birth question will be dispensed with altogether according to Chief Jennings.

Chief Jeff Jennings

These questions, as currently asked of would be citizen complainants, besides being of dubious legality, have a stultifying effect on accountability owing to their coercive and intimidating nature.

The public town hall style meeting will be attended by police department employees including the Chief himself and will focus on the militarization of EPD including specifically the quiet issuance of AR-15 assault rifles some years ago to officers for use in their daily rounds in Emeryville.  The police will answer citizen's questions and the Chief will weigh in himself on the issuance of these weapons to the rank and file he says.  The Council chambers will likely be the location of the meeting and it will probably take place before a regularly scheduled City Council meeting.

Assault rifles are considered weapons of high firepower and great lethality by the state legislature and are illegal for most citizens to carry in the State of California.  Emeryville police started carrying these weapons about six years ago, around the time former Chief of Police Jennifer Tejada took office during a period when police forces began acquiring military grade weapons systems nation-wide.  Citizens requested accountability for the new level of force the police acquired in Emeryville but were rebuffed by Chief Tejada.  The department would not attend any such town hall meetings set up to debate the militarization of the department Chief Tejada said.  “The weapons of my officers are not going to be up to a public debate” Chief Tejada opined at a public safety meeting at the time and City Hall dropped the issue.

By reversing the department’s wall of silence around the assault rifles issued to police and the unilateral rewriting of the citizen complaint code, EPD signals it is open to a new period of glasnost.  It is hard to say if this democratization of Emeryville’s police comes as a result of the new Chief or from pressure from below, taken on as citizens demand greater police accountability nation-wide.  Perhaps it’s a bit of both.  But it is taken as a public good that the police department has more citizen support as they strongly pronounce their embrace of and need for ‘community policing’.  


Emeryville's Current Police Complaint Form
Complainant's name, address, date of birth not optional.  Many citizens, seeing these questions will drop the complaint. 
Accountability is effectively thwarted.  Is that the function of this?
    












Sunday, March 28, 2021

Former Emery School Board Trustee Miguel Dwin fined $4000 by the FPPC

Former Emery
School Board member
Miguel Dwin
California’s Fair Political Practices Committee named former Emery Unified School District Board Trustee Miguel Dwin in a March 18th $4000 enforcement decision against Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson’s 2016 election campaign of which Mr Dwin was the treasurer. Mr Dwin, who lives in Emeryville, was charged with failure to file two required campaign statements on Mr Carson’s behalf as well as four ’24-hour’ reports in violation of Government Code Section 84203.  

Former Emery Board member Dwin was hired by Supervisor Carson in a successful run for the the county’s District 5 office in June 2016 following Mr Dwin’s failed November 2014 re-election attempt for Emery Unified’s Board.  Commission Counsel Jenna C Rinehart’s ruling against Mr Dwin is highlighted in the March enforcement report on the FPPC website (see link below).  

Mr Dwin managed the account for Supervisor Carson who's political campaign netted more than $100,000 that year. 

Former Board member Dwin, who lists as his forte community policy leadership and fiscal management, works for the Berkeley Unified School District as a budget analyst.

Mr Dwin did not return calls for purposes of this story.

FPPC Enforcement Decisions March 18th, 2021

Monday, March 22, 2021

Emeryville Honors Transgender Community: Introducing Steve Dain Drive




Emeryville Rights a Historic Wrong


Today the City of Emeryville has made good on its promise to account for the 1976 wrongful termination of Emery teacher Steve Dain, fired for who he was: a transgender person mentoring/instructing Emeryville children.  Workers arrived at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and the former 47th Street shortly after 1:30 PM and within a few minutes the new street sign proclaiming Emeryville values was installed.  A small group of people gathered at the site to witness the historic event including Mayor Diane Martinez and Councilman John Bauters. 

Only the block west of San Pablo Avenue extending to Doyle Street is named for Mr Dain the City reports. 

The renaming of 47th Street Steve Dain Drive, will forever serve as a reminder that the City of Emeryville will not exclude anyone in our community for who they are and that all are welcome here.  The Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees, the body that facilitated the termination 45 years ago, passed an official resolution on March 10th apologizing for the firing of the popular teacher for "immorality" on the site that now bears his name; 1100 Steve Dain Drive.


Mayor Martinez (left) and Councilman Bauters
brought their four legged companions to witness
Emeryville's latest bending of the arc towards justice.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Breaking News: School Board Issues Apology For Firing Transgender Teacher

BREAKING:

Tonight, the Emery Unified Board of Trustees voted to apologize to parents for the 1976 firing of Steve Dain, a transgender teacher employed by the District, for “immorality” after he had completed gender confirmation surgery.   The unanimous apology comes after two years of rancor, the District sidelining a bid to acknowledge the fired teacher by naming the remodeled gym after him in 2019 and then for more than a year, refusing to draft the resolution they finally did here tonight.   

Steve Dain, a popular 7-12th grade PE teacher at Emery, had won a teacher of the year award from the School Board the semester before he transitioned however, upon returning from summer break and surgery, Mr Dain was promptly sacked.  The Board fired  him at the behest of then Superintendent Lewis Stommel, who also directed that the teacher’s final paycheck be withheld.  Mr Dain hired an attorney and was awarded $19,000 for the termination and his back pay. 

Former Emery Teacher of the Year
Dr Steven Dain
1939-2007

After voting to name the school's gym for a different PE teacher, School Board president Bynnda Collins railed against naming the gym for Steve Dain, chastising advocates for transgender equality, calling the gym naming plan "political".  Council member Christian Patz responding, said Emery's failure amounts to anti-trans "bigotry".  

Talking with a reporter shortly after he was fired by Emery, Mr Dain said his passion in life was cultivating young people and that he “missed teaching more than anything”.   Lamenting about losing his chosen career,  he was thinking of his students, “I miss my kids in Emeryville” he said.

He died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 68. 

After the District received a lot of bad press from the Tattler and the Bay Area Reporter following the gym naming failure in 2020, Board member Susan Donaldson proposed to her colleagues that the District issue an apology but that also proved to be a non starter.  The City, sensing a lack of commitment from Emery Unified, moved to rename 47th Street, the address of the high school where he taught, Steve Dain Drive.  The City’s renaming efforts have brought praise from the press but also a new round of ire against Emery Unified for their recalcitrance.  Tonight that finally gets put to rest.

Here is the text of the Resolution passed tonight: 

The Emery Unified School District Board of Trustees would like to apologize for the employment termination of teacher Steve Dain.  Mr. Dain was terminated after returning from gender confirmation surgery in 1975.  As a district, we understand the personal hardships, needless expense and over arching injustice Mr. Dain incurred fighting the unjust decision preventing him from returning to Emery High.  We regret the harmful actions taken by the district at that time.  Mr. Dain was right to expect to return to his job.  In no uncertain terms, the current school board would never support the termination of a person due to their gender and/or sexual orientation just as we would not support any negative action based on bias.  To ensure that such discrimination does not take place in the future, Board Policies and Regulation now expressly reflect that no student, teacher or staff person may be subjected to discrimination, harassment or bullying based on sex, gender, or sexual orientation (among other protected categories).  (See Board Policies and Regulations 0415, 1312.3, 4030, 4031, 4119.1, 4119.11, 4219.1, 4219.11, 4319.1, 4319.11, 5131.2, 5137, 5145.3, 5145.31, 5145.7, 5145.9, https://emeryusd.k12.ca.us/policies.html].  

Additionally, inspired by past and ongoing events affecting our communities, students and staff, we have formed an Equity Committee of board members, staff and students to examine our history as a district, pursue inclusion and celebrate our diverse community.  This committee shall henceforth be known as the Equity and Inclusion Committee.  We also see this as an opportunity to include the Curriculum Committee in plans for incorporating LGBTQ and gender inclusive professional development training and resources specifically designed for educators and youth-serving professionals.  

In closing, we understand that it is important to face and acknowledge past injustice to move our community forward towards a brighter and more inclusive future.  Thank you for entrusting us with your children's education and safety.  We do not take the task lightly and we will continue to strive towards excellence and inclusion for all. 


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Councilman Reveals Inept/Corrupt City Staff Regarding Trees at Biomed Project

 City Staff Bid Allowing Developer to Cut Trees

Ends With Bauters' Rebuke 

Information Hidden From Commissioners  

Council Member Pounces on Staff, Saves Trees

Council member John Bauters (on right)
He has a 'Loraxian' view of the urban forest but he's
thankfully, more effective than the actual Lorax.
Photo Lea Suzuki/SF Chronicle

Emeryville was on track heading into the February 25th Planning Commission meeting to allow the cutting of nearly 176 trees associated with Hollis Street's Biomed development proposal but for the actions of Councilman John Bauters who, citing a City statute that protects privately owned trees, forced the city staff  to save 90 trees following their initial recommendation for removal.   After the City Hall staff prepared their report that mistakenly gave the Commission a green light to kill the trees, Councilman Bauters, monitoring the Commission, wrote a February 24th email excoriating the staff for failing to reveal to the Commission their option to save the trees as is preserved in Emeryville’s municipal code.  

The Planning Commission, in response to Mr Bauters’ email, voted to save many of the trees that would have unnecessarily been cut down if they had listened to the staff.  A sharp eyed Councilman John Bauters, noting the error in the staff report, ultimately managed to save 90 trees from being cut outright but further got an agreement to plant more trees than what the staff had asked of the developer – 45 trees in all.

The tree cutting, as first presented by Emeryville Planning Director Charlie Bryant, forwarded Biomed's desire to cut down 22 public street trees associated with their development proposal as well as 154 trees on their property, as they had requested.  The public street trees are protected by Emeryville’s Urban Forestry Ordinance (UFO) but privately owned trees are not.  However, a section of the municipal code does provide some protection for privately owned trees in Emeryville but Mr Bryant failed to notify the Planning Commission of that. In the case of the proposed Biomed facility, the Planning Commission's hands are not tied as Mr Bryant indicated in his staff report but rather, the law does grant the Planning Commission an option to save the privately owned trees there.

Councilman Bauters, who is operating with the Biomed project as a private citizen due to proximity conflicts, quoted Emeryville Municipal Code Section 9-4.503(c) that outlines the process for the discretionary review of a project on private property involving existing trees.  Mr Bryant, in his staff report, did not reveal to the Planning Commission the following from 9-4.503(c):

“For projects on private property that require discretionary City approval, the Director, Planning Commission, or City Council, as the case may be, may require that existing healthy on-site trees be preserved and incorporated into the project unless this is shown to be infeasible.”

Mr Bauters, calling the omission “an appealable error”, stated the City of Emeryville had failed to consider the feasibility of preserving on-site trees.  He questioned the motives of the City for hiding information that could lead to saving trees adding, “from the beginning, the application has been presented, considered, debated and developed with the presumption that their preservation was a foregone conclusion.”

Emeryville's Biomed Center of Innovation™
View looking south at Hollis Street
The Planning Commission after receiving Council member Bauters’ email asked the staff to provide the information that had been denied them and upon receipt, they voted to save 77 of the private trees and they went on to insist 13 of the 22 proposed publicly owned street trees be saved, also at Mr Bauters’ request.  The staff had insisted underground pipes associated with the construction of the Biomed project would necessitate the cutting all 22 public trees, a conclusion the Council member showed to be false.  

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the City staff has ruled public street trees be cut in error.  There has been a pattern and practice of giving Emeryville’s decision makers false information that would rule in developers’ favor regarding cutting down our trees.  In 2018, the staff told the City Council that the developer of the Sherwin Williams project be allowed to cut some 14 trees, again owing to underground pipes; a falsehood revealed by the Tattler.  In that case, the staff hid a critical arborist report from the Planning Commission that they likely would have cited to save the trees. After a protracted public battle, the trees were mostly all saved. 

Mr Bauters also caught the staff falsely advising decision makers to cut publicly owned trees before the February 25th debacle.  In 2016, he managed to save 21 of 30 proposed tree removals associated with a PG&E pipeline renovation project on 53rd Street after the staff had told the Planning Commission to allow all 30 trees be cut.  The staff was forced to remove the agenda item at Council member Bauters’ behest after he demanded the legal agreements and maps showing pipeline proximity from PG&E.  Eventually, it was revealed that there was no agreement with the City as staff had claimed, and that the pipeline PG&E thought was under the sidewalk was in fact under the middle of the street.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

March 5th, 47th Street to Transition to Steve Dain Drive

 City Honors Fired Transgender Teacher After Emery School District Balks 

Introducing Steve Dain Drive

School Board Digs In Its Heels Against Honoring Its Fired Teacher


The City of Emeryville has announced it will officially change the name of 47th Street to Steve Dain Drive on March 5th when employees from the public works department add the new signs to the existing street sign posts.  Both the old street name and the new name will be posted for a period of 18 months the City reports but they will start calling the street by its new name in March.  Only the portion of 47th Street West of San Pablo Avenue will get the name change.  

In an announcement made last May, the City took on the task of honoring the late Steve Dain, a teacher at Emery Unified School District who was fired by the district in 1976 after he surgically transitioned from a woman to a man.  City Council members expressed anguish that Emery School Board members had stopped a grassroots drive last year to honor the teacher the district had fired for “immorality” and it was suggested the City could act on its own by renaming the street, correcting the historic wrong. 

The district’s high school is located on the future Steve Dain Drive, the same school where Mr Dain taught 45 years ago.  The AC Transit bus yard is the only other entity that will have a Steve Dain Drive address.
School Board President
Brynnda Collins

Refuses to comment regarding
the district's role in the
firing of its transgender teacher
for "immorality".


The City Council took over the job of acknowledging Mr Dain after the School Board reversed themselves upon having made an initial move towards naming their newly remodeled gym for the fired teacher.  Since then the Board has reneged on a plan to pass an official resolution apologizing for firing the teacher who had once been awarded the title of teacher of the year at Emery.  Notably, the Board’s refusal to acknowledge the wrong done against Mr Dain by the district comes at the same time they have been honing their public message of "inclusionary equity".

The City has not announced plans for any official March celebration associated with the name change but there is talk of a street closing block party perhaps in the fall of 2021, depending on the status of the COVID pandemic by then.

Both AC Transit and Emery Unified School District have been notified of the impending renaming of the street City officials said.

School Board president Brynnda Collins and Superintendent of the Schools Quiauna Scott were both contacted to comment on the refusal of the district to account for the firing of Steve Dain and its failure to apologize but both leaders refused to respond.  

Monday, January 11, 2021

"Hyper-Local" Emeryville Blogger Rob Arias Purchased Home in Pleasant Hill in 2019, May Be Forced to Sell His Home Here

 Emeryville Booster/Blog Editor Reportedly Moved Out of Town in 2019

Possible Violations Against City's Affordable Housing Program

Editor Rob Arias Tells His Readers He Still Lives in Emeryville


The self styled 'voice of the community' hasn't
been seen in the community for quite some time.

Emeryville blogger, local booster and political pundit Robert Arias, apparently moved to Pleasant Hill nearly two years ago.  A move would tend to undermine Mr Arias' public positioning as the voice of the Emeryville community, if he's sleeping each night in another county.  The move would also have real consequences.  Mr Arias may have violated stipulations in an Emeryville affordable housing program by apparently retaining possession of one of City Hall's few subsidized units, if the Park Avenue unit in question is no longer his primary residence.

The Tattler learned Mr Arias apparently jumped ship in 2019, closing escrow on an 1,163 square foot, two story home with two bedrooms and two baths, in May, according to public records, in the Contra Costa County community.  At the same time, he has apparently retained his Emeryville unit, purchased (in 2003) through the City's Below-Market-Rate affordable housing program, rather than selling it to a qualifying buyer or obtaining a waiver as the housing program requires. 

Having built a fairly successful, heavily monetized web presence in Emeryville, offering generally positive coverage- the digital equivalent of an old time small town newspaper’s proud, if boosterish coverage, Mr Arias hasn't volunteered anything publicly on his E'Ville Eye about any move 30 miles to the east.


The E'Ville Eye editor purchased this
Pleasant Hill home in May 2019.  
According to Emeryville’s low income housing assistance regulations, BMR owners must live in their units as a ‘primary residence’ for at least 10 months per year.  Living elsewhere represents a breach of contract.  Renting out a BMR unit is also a violation, though it is unclear that this has occurred. The program requires the sale of units to applicants meeting the city's income guidelines, (just as Mr Arias had in 2003) after the owner relocates.  The goal being having a supply, albeit a small one, of affordable housing for purchase in Emeryville. 

BMR unit owners, even though they receive assistance in the initial purchase, are allowed to realize property value gains over the tenure of their occupancy.  By law, Mr Arias would be allowed to keep 20% of the sale price above his initial investment.  Being across the street from the long-planned ten-acre, 500-unit, Sherwin-Williams development and new public park now under construction, Mr Arias’ unit has likely increased in value in recent months, a windfall he will be able to realize the longer he holds the unit.

This story will continue to evolve as new facts are revealed and we will report as our investigation continues.

Mr Arias declined to comment for this story.  

Rob continues to tell his readers he lives in Emeryville.  If the City's housing assistance director finds he has defrauded City Hall's BMR program, Mr Arias will be forced to sell his unit.  Bio pulled from his E'Ville Eye this week.


Thursday, December 31, 2020

Nora Davis Revisionism Runs Rampant

It's Set to Be Nora Davis This and Nora Davis That in Emeryville in 2021

Never Mind She Didn't Approve of Any of This Stuff

They're Now Crediting Her With

After her passing in 2020, revisionists look to redefine the former 
Councilwoman as something she was not.

Opinion

Following former City Councilwoman Nora Davis’ passing in August 2020, there’s a movement among some in town to name a host of Emeryville public works after the long time Council veteran.  At least three such public works and one private building are being considered for recognition of the former Councilwoman: Nora Davis Station (the Emeryville Amtrak station), Nora Davis Park (Doyle Hollis Park), Nora Davis Senior Center (the Emeryville Senior Center) and Nora Davis Bridge (the South Bayfront Bridge).  This is a terrible idea for Emeryville moving forward and we urge the City Council to reject these name changings that would, in effect, re-write history as they attempt to recognize the Councilwoman’s 29 year long tenure on the Council.

Nora Davis or Fred Koramatsu Bike/Ped Bridge 
One fought against bikes on this bridge
the other fought against racism and for human dignity.
We understand conservatives in our town are lamenting the loss of paradigmatic power they had at City Hall when Councilwoman Davis ran the show but it would be a mistake to use the commons to now pay homage to this person who’s values are decidedly not representative of the Emeryville community today (if they ever were).  Further,  Ms Davis actually worked AGAINST two of the works now being considered to be named after her; Doyle Hollis Park and the South Bayfront Pedestrian/Bike Bridge. 

Consider how Emeryville values are subverted by Councilwoman Nora Davis’ 29 year record (partial list):

-  As Mayor, she lobbied to build a parking structure on the site of the Doyle Hollis Park, working actively against the park idea.

-  While accepting a South Bayfront pedestrian bridge be constructed, Council member Davis advocated against designing it for bicycle use.

-  She voted against implementation of Emeryville’s democratically vetted Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan.

 -  Councilwoman Davis worked against the Minimum Wage Ordinance and even against an earlier plan to increase hotel workers’ wages to $9 per hour claiming it would destroy Emeryville’s hospitality industry.

-  She lobbied against bike/ped paths, claiming without evidence, one proposed at the Center of Community Life would bring “gang rapes” and another mid-block path proposal in the Triangle neighborhood, opining “Triangle neighbors need more exercise”.

-  Ms Davis voted to close down the Emeryville Child Development Center and to privatize it, claiming “We can’t afford it”.

-  She voted in favor of every developer proposal put before her that called for demolishing historically/architecturally significant buildings, leaving the town bereft of these buildings our General Plan had sought to preserve.

-  Ms Davis worked on behalf of the business community, directing public monies to the furtherance of private enterprise as a routine manner, proudly claiming many times, 'Emeryville’s interests are business interests' from the dais.

-  Council member Davis' voting record was a perfect 100% in favor of developer’s initial proposals for housing projects, against negotiating for more family friendly and affordable housing units.

The City of Emeryville will have nothing to say about the renaming of the Amtrak Station after Nora Davis because that building is owned by Wareham Development Corporation.  We understand Wareham CEO Rich Robbins received lots of public largess over the years, monies directed his way by his friend on the City Council, Nora Davis.  We understand the soft spot Ms Davis occupies in Mr Robbins’ heart.  So we recognize Nora Davis Station is likely a done deal for that property owned by Mr Robbins but City owned properties are another matter entirely. It is unseemly at best for the Council to move forward on any of these re-naming proposals.

Nora Davis or Sylvia McLaughlin Park 
At least Sylvia liked parks.

We understand the proclivity for elected officials to recognize when a departed fellow public official had remained on the job for a long time.  But using that metric, why wouldn’t the City Council name these public works after those who stayed in public employ even longer than Ms Davis?  Why wouldn’t the City name these public works after for instance the LaCoste family, who’s members, Al and John served on the City Council, as Mayor and Chief of Police for more than 50 years?  Does it matter these public officials were known corrupt public personages? If this City Council feels that public corruption should serve as a barrier against the honoring by so naming public works, why shouldn’t disloyalty to professed Emeryville values also then serve as a barrier?

If this City Council feels an urge to re-name the South Bayfront Bridge or Doyle Hollis Park or the Emeryville Senior Center, we recommend they honor a previous grand civic tradition for naming public works after great civil rights leaders or environmental leaders.  How about let’s name these public properties after people who actually reflect our values?  May we suggest Fannie Lou Hamer Bridge, Judi Bari Park and the Maggie Kuhn Senior Center?  Or we can keep it more local: the Fred Korematsu Bridge, Sylvia McLaughlin Park and the Bullet Marasigan Senior Center.  Against these luminaries, those who actually worked to increase justice and promote the public commons, Nora Davis just sort of fades.  Maybe it’s because Nora Davis actively disliked some of the things her boosters now want to name after her.  Perhaps the City Council, under pressure from these boosters, will have real empathy towards the former Councilwoman and leave her out of this.  After all, posthumously would you want to be named after something you hated while you were alive?

Nora Davis or Bullet Marasigan Senior Center
One worked for the business community
the other worked for the dispossessed elderly.