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Sunday, May 30, 2010


Who's Looking Out For The Public Interest? Not City Hall

To what extent do Emeryville residents have reasonable expectation that when a private contractor harms the pedestrian environment in our town, the damage be fixed? Any stroll around Emeryville will reveal many instances where private contractors have, with the city's blessings, ripped up the sidewalks to do underground work and consequently done a substandard job replacing the walkway. It's admittedly a minor issue but like the attrition of a broken window, it can bring down people's feelings of civic connection. The little insults add up.

Take for instance City Hall's investment in the Triangle neighborhood. In 1995, the council authorized the rebuilding of the street and sidewalk infrastructure as part of the 'San Pablo Avenue Beautification Project' to attract new businesses and residents to the area. This project cost $1.5 million to implement in this part and $4.1 million for the whole street and dramatically improved the street scape there. The taxpayers paid for, among other improvements, beautiful brick 'basket weave' sidewalk paving.

Already, these improvements are under assault. Several weeks ago, Bayrock Corporation, the builders of the Oakwalk project at 40th and San Pablo jackhammered up the sidewalk to do some work but they failed to replace what they damaged. Where before, there was an attractive uninterrupted brick basket weave pattern, now after the contractor finished, there is a "crack control" joint running through the width of the sidewalk, disrupting the pattern, creating a piecemeal look.


Any contractor working for a private homeowner would never leave a job like this since they know they wouldn't get paid. When it comes to the public realm however, there seems to be another standard altogether. Here, contractors are allowed to cut corners with no negative repercussions at all. The council was alerted to this but it was only member Jennifer West that seemed interested in protecting the resident's interests.

The City Engineer Maurice Kaufman was informed by Ms West to find out about the shoddy work done by the contractor Bayrock. Bayrock for its part, offered no excuse for the shortcut on quality other than the enhancement of their profit margin. As a result of a Tattler investigation, Mr Kaufman reported that Bayrock was told they were expected to restore the sidewalk to the condition they found it in but they said "no". Mr Kaufman told the Tattler that's "good enough" and that the issue is resolved with that after commenting "what are we going to do?".

We expect the city to hold companies like Bayrock accountable until they fix what they damaged but once again forces intent on protecting business interests have prevailed. Bayrock has been let off the hook for a job no private person would tolerate as acceptable. If they were working in the private sector, they'd go home without the final payment.

The Emeryville city council is known for its pro-business culture, but residents have a reasonable expectation that businesses not cheapen and degrade the public assets in large ways or even small ways like this. In this case, Bayrock just needs to fix what they broke and the city needs to intercede on our behalf and force them if need be. It's a reasonable expectation.

Friday, May 28, 2010

No Bike Lanes For Horton Street

Law ignored; Council Scuttles Bike Plan On Horton Street

After months of rebuilding, the contractors are completing work on Horton Street in the Park Avenue area and it's finally ready to paint the center line striping and stenciling for parking on the fresh asphalt but they're not going to paint bike lanes, even though the law mandates that they be placed there.

For years, local business owners and car advocates have made their wishes known to the council that the city's Bike Plan, a legal document, be changed to get rid of the bike lanes slated for that section of Horton Street in favor of more car parking. At their May 18th meeting, the council showed they had no problem getting rid of the bike lanes but amending the Bike Plan, something required to legally remove the lanes, proved more then they were willing to do.

Sensing governmental impropriety, Council Member Jennifer West interceded with an attempt to force a vote among her colleagues at the May 18th meeting but was rebuffed by the other four council members. Ms West indicated that the council is entitled to remove bike lanes city-wide at its pleasure but to legally do so they are required to amend the Bike Plan, which calls for bike lanes on that stretch of Horton Street. Her colleagues demurred.

Responding to charges that her colleagues didn't want to make a public anti-bike vote by amending the Plan to get rid of the lanes, Ms West acknowledged to the Tattler that she thought Emeryville residents wouldn't appreciate seeing their council members voting against biking, "They (the other council members) are aware it wouldn't look good" she said. She added "it's probably true" that they refused to make the vote to amend the Plan to keep the public's impression of them favorable. "I can see an argument against amending a plan that's soon to be replaced anyway, however it would be prudent to amend the Bike Plan to reflect the reality of what is being placed on the street" she said.

Never mind the fact that the Bike Plan is law and must be obeyed.

The staff, normally sticklers for proper procedural decorum remained silent at the May 18th meeting as the council members debated the prudence of proceeding to strip the street of its required bike lanes without a vote to amend the Bike Plan, a clear violation of the law. "I didn't feel it was necessary to comment" said Planning Director Charlie Bryant by way of explaining his silence on the matter.

The city's Bike/Pedestrian Committee voted unanimously to retain the bike lanes on this section of Horton Street after pressure mounted from the business community to remove them last year.

The Bike/Pedestrian Plan was certified by the council in 1998 and is a legal planning document for all bike matters in the city. The city has commissioned a yet-to-be announced urban planning firm to upgrade the Plan at a cost of $200,000, expected to be complete sometime in the summer of 2011.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How They Voted

Demolish Historic, Architecturally Significant Building?

At the Tattler, we've noticed the city council and other deliberative bodies in Emeryville make controversial votes that get forgotten by the residents over time. In deference to the general edification of public policy and to strengthen Emeryville's democratic institutions, we will publish occasional short reminders on how the Power Elite in town have voted on these controversial issues.

On January 20, 2009, the vote before the council was:

Should Madison Park Development Corporation be granted permission to tear down a two story brick building at 3900 Adeline Street, deemed by the city to be one of the few remaining "architecturally significant" and "historically significant" buildings to build another condo podium development?

Nora Davis - YES
Ken Bukowski - YES
Dick Kassis - YES

Ruth Atkin - NO
John Fricke - NO

Note: The General Plan calls for rehabilitating this building but Madison Park Development, a politically well connected corporate power player in Emeryville stated their profit margin wouldn't be as high as it would be by tearing down the building. The three council members were impressed enough with this argument to say YES.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How They Voted

Widen 40th Street Bridge For Cars And Reduce Bike/Pedestrian Safety?

At the Tattler, we've noticed the city council and other deliberative bodies in Emeryville make controversial votes that get forgotten by the residents over time. In deference to the general edification of public policy and to strengthen Emeryville's democratic institutions, we will publish occasional short reminders on how the Power Elite in town have voted on these controversial issues.

On November 24 2009, the vote before the council was:

Should two traffic lanes be added to the 40th Street railroad overpass, crowding the bike lanes and pedestrians with high speed vehicles against the unanimous decision of both the Bike/Pedestrian Committee and the City Engineer?

Nora Davis - YES
Ken Bukowski - YES

Jennifer West - NO
Kurt Brinkman - NO
Ruth Atkin - NO

Note: This was a request of Madison Marquette Corporation, the developer of the Bay Street Mall. They thought if more high speed traffic were put on the bridge, there would be more shoppers at the mall. The City Engineer proved that due to other constriction points on either side of the bridge, there would be net no increase in traffic flow and for safety's sake the bridge should continue at two vehicle travel lanes instead of four. The two YES voting council members didn't care about that, they wanted to vote how the developer told them to.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Property Owners Say NO To New Taxes

Landscape And Lighting Tax Resoundingly Defeated

Emeryville property owners spoke in a loud and clear voice Tuesday, and they resoundingly defeated a tax increase proposal called the Lighting and Landscape Assessment tax. The final vote was some 90.9% against the proposed tax hike.

Of a total 4677 parcels in town, each given a ballot, 2224 ballots were received by City Hall. 489 ballots were YES votes and 1735 were NO, about 78% of the total ballots.

The reason for the discrepancy (90.9% vs 78%) is that businesses were given a greater say per ballot.

City Clerk Karen Hemphill this morning said of the vote, "It's too early to say for sure but probably most YES votes were residents. Still, more residents said NO than YES". She added "We need to wait for the redacted tabulations to be made public, probably sooner than two weeks". The documents need to be redacted before the results are made public since ballots contain personal information about voters and the city needs to protect their privacy. Ms Hemphill indicated that the sour economy is likely a key reason why this proposal was so resoundingly defeated, "Everyone is suffering, business as well" she said.

City Hall has indicated the results of the assessment vote will be lowered services in the form of dirty streets, shabby parks and such. While it's clear this is how most residents wanted public policy to go, a reading of the skewed ballot value in favor of business reveals it's primarily the business sector that said no to clean Emeryville streets and parks.

Readers that wish more information can wait until City Hall produces an "e-news" story at the city's website. Also for information about how the vote formula was conceived, the Tattler reported the story in a May 5 edition.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Local Dems Praise Labor Opponent as "Progressive"

Mayor Hosts Awards Presentation For "Progressive" Emeryville Resident

Emeryville Mayor Ruth Atkin, hosting a fete organized by the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, bestowed awards on four people for advancing social justice Sunday at Oakland's Washington Inn. Sharing the awards for creating "social equality" with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, was a man who should be well known in Emeryville, John Gooding.

Mr. Gooding is a man who wears many hats. He serves as chair of Ms. Lee's 'One Voice' Political Action Committee, raising money for the only member of congress to oppose resolutions enabling former President Bush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Ms. Lee lauded Mr. Gooding from the podium, praising his skill at bundling political contributions by acknowledging Mr. Gooding as her "biggest individual source of contributions."

But raising money for Ms. Lee isn't Mr. Gooding's only job. He's also a longtime board member and recent President of the Emeryville Chamber of Commerce, working tenaciously on behalf of its members. He's also led the Chamber's Political Action Committee, EMPAC, which seeks and often succeeds in helping elect pro-business candidates to Emeryville's City Council. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the other hand, recently rated Ms. Lee's voting record at 26 percent out of 100 for generally opposing that Chamber's positions.

Raising money for political candidates has long been Mr. Gooding's forte. He's apparently not shy about working both sides of the fence. He provided $500 to the campaign of California Governor Pete Wilson, a Republican best known for injecting wedge issues, such the immigrant-baiting Proposition 187 and the 3-strikes law, into California politics. Prop. 187 sought to bar undocumented immigrants from public schools, public medical care and other government programs. It was found unconstitutional. Mr. Gooding also provided $1,000 to Ed Zschau, a Republican Congressman who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Democrat Alan Cranston in 1986. Zschau ran on a platform of eliminating capital gains taxes---taxes paid on money made from investments. The move would have reduced the tax burden on those living off investments but presumably requiring higher tax rates on people earning money from a job to make up the difference.

In Emeryville, Mr. Gooding is perhaps best known for his work attempting to block 2005's Measure C, a voter approved ordinance that granted a $9-per-hour minimum wage to hotel workers and reduced the number of rooms workers clean, easing their "sweatshop-like" workloads.

To those in the room Sunday, all of that was ancient history, if it were even known. Mr. Gooding was lavishly praised for advancing social equality and was introduced as a "true progressive." If any in attendance were aware of the irony of the whole thing, they kept it to themselves.

After the presentation, a representative of the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club expressed ignorance and "concern" after it was revealed that Mr. Gooding had actively opposed Measure C and helped Republicans up and down the state. The representative said that the group will investigate further.

The fundraiser was attended by many of the East Bay's progressive luminaries including many Berkeley and Oakland Council members and Emery Schools Superintendent John Sugiyama.

As attendees were filing out Sunday, Mr. Gooding threatened to sue the Tattler if there is a story featuring him. "Remember, I'm not an elected official" he said as a warning, referring to the difficulty politicians have in suing the press.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How They Voted

Scrap The New General Plan To Accommodate One Developer?

At the Tattler, we've noticed the city council and other deliberative bodies in Emeryville make controversial votes that get forgotten by the residents over time. In deference to the general edification of public policy and to strengthen Emeryville's democratic institutions, we will publish occasional short reminders on how the Power Elite in town have voted on these controversial issues.

On October 6, 2009 the issue before the council was:

Should the brand new General Plan be amended to allow for a specific parcel of land to be increased in maximum building height allowable from 75 feet to unlimited height with no findings whatsoever other than the one developer, John Nady's desires for more profit?

Nora Davis - YES
Ken Bukowski - YES
Dick Kassis - YES

Ruth Atkin - NO
John Fricke - NO

Note: Work on the General Plan took more than five years and was completed just weeks before the vote. The Plan took thousands of hours of resident volunteer work and many millions of dollars to complete.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Child Center Saved

All Hail Jac Asher
Brian Carver

Last Thursday's stunning council vote to save the Child Development Center couldn't have happened without the organizing skills and plucky persistence of wife and husband team, Emeryville parents Jac Asher and Brian Carver.

City Hall is legendary in it's ability to fight off resident's concerns, however over the last five months City Manager Pat O'Keeffe and his staff withered under the barrage laid down by the parental onslaught brought by Ms Asher and Mr Carver. They did not shy away from this fight and our kids are the beneficiaries.

Some have noted the fact that the Child Center still faces deep cuts and that the quality of the program will surely suffer and there is truth in this, but the weight of what has been accomplished should not be diminished. Indeed, such a spectacle is rare in Emeryville. Only the superb job done by private citizen John Fricke, battling the staff's insistence that bikes not be permitted on the proposed pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks at Bay Street, has equalled the performance by this wife/husband team. Mr Fricke's popularity rose to such an extent over that fight, he was able to win his subsequent council bid in a landslide.

One wonders in happy anticipation, what else Ms Asher and Mr Carver might have in store for us. We hope they continue to use their formidable organizing skills and admirable dogged persistence to the betterment of our town. We are lucky to count them as fellow residents.

Council Vote Unanimous On Outsourcing

Public Education To Remain At Child Center

After a five month roller coaster of a fight to protect public education at the pre-K level, pitting parents against the City Manager, the Emeryville City Council handed down their unanimous verdict Thursday night; the Child Development Center is to remain a public institution.

The council acknowledged the persistent work of the parents in letter writing, meeting attendance and contributions to the specially designated 'ECDC Task Force'. Supporters of the Child Center Friday were praising the efforts of one parent in particular, Jacqueline "Jac" Asher. Ms Asher, and her husband Brian Carver led the fight by organizing the parents into a united front of opposition to the outsourcing scheme.

One council watcher noted the unexpected unanimous vote, "I'm surprised Nora Davis voted for this" he said, adding his desire to remain anonymous. In fact several council votes have been made to weaken or degrade the Child Center over the years and Thursday was the first vote cast by Ms Davis in favor of supporting the Center.

It was a stunning loss for City Manager Pat O'Keeffe who threw the entire weight of his office behind the proposal to outsource the Center to the Berkeley/Albany YMCA. Many parents complained about Mr O'Keeffe's insolence and rudeness directed at them. "His comments about us being 'too emotional' were really offensive", one parent who asked for unanimity said.

Ms Asher tempered her victory letter to parents with descriptions of "hard cuts" to come at the Center including staffing reductions. She indicated it was time for her to take a break for a little while, after the five month ordeal, "I'm tired" she exclaimed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Council makes parents wait

Local Baby Sitters Profit Handsomely From Mayor's Decision

The Emeryville Child Development Center budget agenda item drew scores of people to City Hall last night. But parents who showed up with their infants and toddlers at City Hall to speak on behalf of the Child Center were made to wait...and wait...and wait.

It was by design; the staff saw fit to place the Child Center discussion dead last on the night's agenda, after presentations about the Fire Department and the Police Department's budgetary concerns. Many parents with their children were observed giving up and leaving, not having been given the chance to speak after having waited for hours. Some 17 parents, many with squirming children and six childless residents managed to wait more than two and a half hours to plead with the council to not outsource the Child Center to a private concern.

Mayor Ruth Atkin was not concerned enough to change the agenda, her prerogative, to accommodate the beleaguered parents. Local babysitters however were no doubt appreciative of the mayors recalcitrance since they netted more money than anticipated, at least the ones that were able to stay up late.

The council will decide about the fate of the Child Development Center on Thursday night at 7:15 at City Hall.

How They Voted

Tattler Featurette
Bike Lanes On Horton Street For Safety?

At the Tattler, we've noticed the city council and other deliberative bodies in Emeryville make controversial votes that get forgotten by the residents over time. In deference to the general edification of public policy and to strengthen Emeryville's democratic institutions, we will publish occasional short reminders on how the Power Elite in town have voted on these controversial issues.

On November 17th, 2009, the issue before the Transportation Committee was:

Should the unanimous vote of the Bike/Pedestrian Committee to uphold the Bike Plan by installing bike lanes on (the southern part of) Horton Street be obeyed?

Nora Davis - NO
Ken Bukowski - NO

Note: The Transportation Committee is comprised of only these two council members. Bicycle advocates are still waiting for the bike lanes, since the council has not ruled on this yet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Budget Hocus Pocus Revealed

Police Overtime Pay Drastically Cut? Oops, Not.

It seems the pencil pushers at City Hall are wanting to show some progress in the fight to reduce the budget deficit, or perhaps at least give the apearence of a reduction. An Emeryville resident has uncovered what appears to be a fiscal shell game conducted by City Hall meant to highlight a new regime of fiduciary prudence in the city's budget.

Emeryville resident and UC Professor Brian Carver revealed the budgetary legerdemain in a strongly worded May 7th letter to the council. The letter showed the police overtime pay went from $444,274 in 2007-08 to $579,675 in 2008-09. In 2009-10 the 'Estimate to Complete' is $600,000 and a 2010-11 budget (as well as a 2011-12 budget) of $174,000. He pointed out, "Instead of spending the $600,000 we spent over the last year on police overtime, we are budgeting just $174,000, a more than 70% reduction".

"At first glance, this appears to be excellent news" he extolled but added, "The truth is something else entirely". In an entry eerily similar to George Bush's war budgeting tactics, Mr Carver reveals the same budget line shows that in 2009-10, we also budgeted just $174,000 for police overtime and nonetheless ended up over-spending that budgeted amount by more than 244%.

This problem was discussed at the April 16th Finance Committee meeting and the recommendation was made that the Chief of Police be required to return to council and request authorization for additional overtime if the budgeted amount is exceeded in the coming year. Mr Carver points out how this idea is flawed in its implementation, "In October or November when the Police Chief comes to the council and says they have exceeded the budgeted amount for overtime and requests an additional budget allocation, what will the council say? At that point it will be too late and the council will have little choice but to approve the additional overtime".

Police Department personnel have indicated much of the overtime pay can be attributed to just two sources; the Bay Street Mall and Kitty's, a cabaret on Hollis Street near the Berkeley border.

Brian Carver, a professor at the School of Information at UC, lives with his wife and two children in the Triangle neighborhood. He and his wife have long been advocates for the Child Development Center and their children attend the Center.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What Do We Really Want, Anyway?


Don't Be Pro-Business, Be Pro-Resident

By Brian Donahue

The political decision makers in Emeryville are fond of reminding residents that businesses provide the money we need to improve the quality of life for the residents, as if the residents needs were the more important part of the equation. In practice, what we have is a 'trickle down' paradigm where the business sector is sacrosanct and residents needs become incidental. The businesses receive the lion's share of the actual government largess and the residents mostly receive the laudatory hot air.

Aware of the growing resident discontent with the multi-million dollar developer subsidies given by City Hall and the lightest business tax in the Bay Area, the council likes to extol the idea of the "win-win" scenario for developers and residents alike. But this is a common axiom in our culture, sometimes used by politicians to hide something much less egalitarian in reality than it sounds coming from the council chamber's lofty dais.

The redevelopment machine, loosed on our town is a clear example of how the residents needs have taken a backseat to the desires of developers. What was conceived to be in the interests of the residents has turned instead into a self perpetuating program of give-a-ways to favored developers by City Hall, one project funding the next. This could be construed as beneficial to the residents were it not for the fact that the development we're getting is mostly in the form of regional shopping centers. However the business proponents on the council are correct in their exclamations on the revenue raising capacity of commerce. Business revenue is how cities thrive, it's well documented that residences are usually revenue negative for cities, costing more than they bring in. But we must remember, business is here for us, not the other way around. So the charge of the decision makers is to deliver business that will enhance the public realm for residents and pay the bills.

What Are We Really Getting?
Regardless that the Redevelopment Agency hasn't been delivering the kind of built development the residents want, the council points with pride to new parks like Doyle/Hollis Park paid for by the shopping malls, as proof that redevelopment is working for the residents. Even with the new parks however, Emeryville still stands at the bottom of Bay Area cities in terms of park acreage per residence. This becomes more damning when one considers the geographic ratio of business (80%) to residences (20%), higher than almost all other Bay Area cities. With the revenue gathering capacity of this ratio, we should have MORE parks and other amenities than our neighbors, not less.

Emeryville has earned its reputation of being the most business friendly city in the Bay Area, and this is borne out by the facts. Our unexplained lack of resident amenities compared with our neighbors is a direct effect of a pro-business culture at City Hall. This unacknowledged culture has unacknowledged negative impacts on the residents. Businesses have different needs than residents; they need profits and we need livability. They'll ALWAYS try to increase their profits and our interests are not part of their equation. It's the council that needs to negotiate on our behalf and that's what is lacking. Instead of phony "win-win" talk, we need a "win for the residents" culture at City Hall. To give businesses sweetheart deals like our council does, in service of some ideologically driven dogma is not how a livable city for the residents is created, regardless of any pollyanna rhetoric emanating from City Hall

Friday, May 7, 2010

Open Letter

The following is a partial re-print of a letter sent by Jaquiline Asher, Emeryville parent, to parents and Emeryville residents. The City Council will decide the fate of the Child Development Center on Tuesday night. Citizens may contact the city council at the city's website at:

To Emeryville residents and parents-

The City Council needs to hear from you right away. If you can't attend
the meeting on May 11th, you need to e-mail.

The future of our Center will be decided in a few days and despite all of
the work that the parents have put into the task force and the concern
they have expressed, the City Manager has said he will recommend complete
outsourcing of the Center to the Berkeley Albany YMCA (BAYMCA).

The final word on ECDC's future rests with the City Council, and they need
to hear from you over the next three days.

Decisions will be made next week. The Center needs your help before May
11th. There are several ways you can help the Center in the final days
before budget meetings:

*Come to the meeting on May 11th @ 6pm at City Hall.
This is where the parents' proposal will be presented. We need to be
visible and supportive of our teachers and Center. If you can't attend,
write an e-mail.

*Write to the Council:
Let them know that you stand behind the parents' proposal and that we have
made serious efforts to create a fiscally responsible model for this
long-standing City service. And after a single year's transition to
institute our plan we will require $0 contribution from the City's General
Fund. The councilmembers' e-mails are below for you to cut and paste.

*Tell them that you don't believe in an income-segregated model of care.
The parent's proposal does not separate kids from one another based upon
income. The City's "parallel" plan does.

*Tell them that they will be getting rid of State-subsidized spots if they
vote for outsourcing
BAYMCA's model relies upon Head Start funding. The families that use the
State subsidy @ ECDC typically earn too much to qualify for that program,
but still need subsidies and deserve reliable childcare. Families at this
income level will not be served if the City goes with outsourcing.

*Accelerated Timetable to outsource:
Patrick O'Keeffe (City Manager) has stated that he will recommend complete
outsourcing of the Center no matter if the budget gap is closed or not.
It's also clear that he favors an accelerated timetable for handover to
BAYMCA if this option is chosen--not the one year's timeline that we
received in the BAYMCA's response to the RFQ.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How They Voted

Tattler Featurette

Kill Biking On Spur Alley?

At the Tattler, we've noticed the city council and other deliberative bodies in Emeryville make controversial votes that get forgotten by the residents over time. In deference to the general edification of public policy and to strengthen Emeryville's democratic institutions, we will publish occasional short reminders on how the Power Elite in town have voted on these controversial issues.

At the July 17, 2007 council meeting, the vote was:

Should the Bike Plan be overturned and the former railroad spur east of and parallel to Hollis Street called Spur Alley, a public easement, be given away to a private developer for private parking instead of a bike path?

Nora Davis - YES
Ken Bukowski - YES
Dick Kassis - YES

Ruth Atkin - NO
John Fricke - NO

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Lighting And Landscape Tax

New Tax Glossed Over In Glossy Brochure

Emeryville voters should expect an objective non biased analysis from the city of any tax proposals coming from City Hall. However, a recent city produced glossy color brochure mailer detailing a new tax scheme called the 'Landscape and Lighting Assessment District' (LLAD), seems more intent on obscuring the resident's tax burden than illuminating it.

The brochure, titled 'Your LLAD Assessment Ballot', purports that residents will pay less than "commercial properties" even though businesses in town will pay far less per square foot than the residents on average. Further, the city makes no mention in the mailer that residents will get one vote on the LLAD per unit, but most businesses will get multiple votes. While the Secretary of State is compelled to give objective analysis in the California voter guide, Emeryville apparently feels no such compunction to do likewise in the $6700 taxpayer funded LLAD brochure.

Brochure Is Silent: Business Is Favored
The problem from the tax plan's inception has been how to equitably divide up the assessment among property owners. A very Byzantine scheme has emerged and is now being voted on by Emeryville property owners by ballot. Residents will pay $93.25 per unit. Businesses are broken up into three categories; commercial, office and industrial and are charged about $139, $82 and $37 (per 1000 square feet) respectively. Additionally, businesses rates will be adjusted based on the number of employees they have. This is further complicated by the fact that while both businesses and residents will pay for street lighting and landscape "services" at the ratio, park lighting and landscape services will be born almost exclusively by residents.

The assessment has been concocted to assure that ballots are weighted in favor of the businesses; tallying the vote will consist of adding up all the value that is voted one way or another. So for instance 100 residents voting in favor would equal $9,325 of "YES" value. Looking at three large businesses in town, Wareham Development, Pixar and Novartis shows how the assessment favors business. Wareham will be voting a combined value of $78,260; Pixar will vote at a value of $16,660 and Novartis will equal $39,210. So to think about it another way, it would take 839 resident votes to equal the Wareham vote ($78,260 divided by $93.25).

The complicated assessment scheme results show a disparity between businesses and residents as one compares geography versus LLAD payments. This is revealed starkly when one considers that Emeryville is about 80% business and 20% residential in terms of land use, but when it comes to LLAD collections, business pays about 56% while residents pay 44%.

The City Gives Misleading Information
The brochure mailer makes claim to a level of objectivity; "to help you make an informed decision, the City of Emeryville would like to provide property owners with additional background" but also states that commercial property (with increased traffic) pays "slightly more than an average residential property" failing to mention the other two business categories, office and industrial that pays far less.

City Manager and LLAD brochure author, Pat O'Keeffe declined to comment for this story.

Ballots are due by May 18th and a public hearing on this assessment will happen on the 18th at City Hall, 1333 Park Avenue at 7:15 PM.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Court Rules Against Redevelopment Agency

Emeryville's hope to stop the State from forcing redevelopment funds to a school fund known as the Supplemental Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (SERAF) today were dashed when Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly ruled that the state can take more than $2 billion statewide from local redevelopment funds and transfer the money to school operations.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Budget Shenanigans

Budget Spiral: Stealing From Peter To Pay Paul

The City of Emeryville is robbing the piggy bank again, and it's the 'Low to Moderate Income' housing fund that's taking the hit this time. After years of lavish gifts in the form of massive multi-million dollar subsidies to wealthy developers all over town, it appears our budget is in dire straights now.

The Redevelopment Agency is required to make a payment to a state mandated school fund called the Supplemental Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (SERAF). Proposition 98, passed by California voters in 2008 mandates the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency meet its SERAF obligation of $11,291,592 in Fiscal Year 2009-10. The first payment is due on May 10.

Since the Redevelopment Agency has no unencumbered funds left to make the first required payment, Helen Bean, Emeryville's Directer of Economic Development and Housing has recommended taking the money from the housing fund.

In a May 4th dated memo to the city council, Ms Bean acknowledged "The appropriation of $11.3 million from the Low and Moderate Income Housing Fund will significantly deplete the ability of the Redevelopment Agency to pursue and fund affordable housing projects".

Three impending housing projects are now endangered according to the memo:
  • The Avalon project, called by city officials a "family friendly" housing development at the Golden Gate Key site on San Pablo.
  • 3900 Adeline, a controversial condo proposal the council recently approved for Madison Park Corporation that involved the demolition of an "architecturally significant" and "historically significant" brick building.
  • The recently completed Oak Walk project at San Pablo Avenue and 40th Street, slated to be converted to low and moderate housing after the developer, BayRock Development pulled the plug on their initial condo development agreement with the city. After the market tanked, BayRock convinced the city to pony up $3 million for the conversion from market rate housing to low and moderate. This developer stated the project would become "blight" if the city didn't pay $3 million for the conversion.
The city council will decide this issue on Tuesday May 4th at 7:15 PM at City Hall.