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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Council Considers Another Bay Street Give-A-Way

Land Fallow Five Years And Waiting
Council: Sixth Year Of Taxpayer Handout?

And now, you won't even be able to count it on one hand.
The City Council keeps telling voters they "get it" and they're now interested in making Emeryville more livable but whenever they're actually put to the test, livability always seems to be set aside for another day.  The council's much vaunted Emeryville livability goals will be tested once again at Bay Street this November when they will consider whether to grant an unprecedented sixth year of dilly-dallying by mall developer Madison Marquette. 

What The...Six Years?
For five consecutive years the council has deferred to the whims of Washington DC based developer Madison Marquette.  Now the mall builder wants a sixth year of 'exclusive negotiating rights' on the land cleared by the city, north of the existing Bay Street mall up to the Powell Street overpass while they decide if or how they want to develop it. Madison Marquette again wants the city to reserve the land exclusively for them and to protect it from other developers who have also expressed interest in developing the site.

The give-a-way spectacle is becoming a reliably classic Emeryville autumn tradition.

Last year, residents showed up en masse to protest the yearly granting of a pass to Madison Marquette. The protesters, organized by the citizens group Residents United for a Livable Emeryville (RULE) called the exclusive negotiating rights a taxpayer funded give-a-way to a favored developer.  Each year the land coveted by Madison Marquette sits idle is another year of lost potential revenue for the city and the taxpayers.  RULE members have called this land banking a defacto subsidy the city has granted Madison Marquette, an add on to the more than $50 million taxpayers already showered upon Madison Marquette by the hand of City Hall.

RULE demonstrated that Madison Marquette has not honored their Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with the city five years running.  The agreement, good for one year and re-upped every year, states that Madison Marquette needs to provide a 'development plan'; a detailed accounting of the proposed development.  Madison Marquette so far has only stated in the vaguest terms how it would like to develop the site.  RULE has called the embroilment between the city and Madison Marquette an exemplar of favoritism for a single corporate entity at the expense of the residents. 

Council Closed To Other Options
It's not like there isn't another choice in the matter.  Last year when the council was granting a fifth year of exclusive rights to Madison Marquette, a spokesman for Federal Development LLP, a developer also based in Washington DC, stepped forward and said his company was ready to make a development proposal for the site.  RULE members noted Federal indicated a willingness to work with residents to produce a project that would benefit all Emeryville unlike Madison Marquette's existing Bay Street mall.  The council at the time said NO to any idea except granting the favored developer the exclusive development rights.

Madison Marquette has continued to rebuff resident's desires to discuss how a potential mall expansion might be made to lessen the impact for the neighborhood.

Last year RULE conducted a city-wide survey probing what residents would like to see at the contested site and more than 400 respondents overwhelmingly said they wanted something Madison Marquette isn't willing to deliver; a development with locally serving retail, more money for our schools, affordable family housing and local hiring.  RULE maintains the residents should get something better for their $50 million investment while the council has said residents should just accept what they and Madison Marquette are offering.

City Hall has not yet released the council meeting date when this will be considered.  The Tattler will report on the date of this very important meeting as it is released.


  1. The project is in a bind because of the economy. The council sees all land as a resource with the potential to generate taxes. Regional retail will have more expensive stores and draw more people and more tax revenue that stays in the city than locally serving retail, offices or residential housing.

    Therefore, Nora Davis has decided that we're gonna get a mall. She is trying to maximize the return for the city and doing a very rational thing if you share her worldview.

    However, one must ask what possible other opportunities existed for Bay Street Site B over these past six years. Those brick warehouses on the site could have been brought up to code and made earthquake safe and provided low cost space for innovative incubating companies----companies that could have provided jobs to Emeryville residents these last six years. Even if city money was needed for the rehab and remediation work, it would have been far cheaper than what the city gave to Madison Marquette.
    If the buildings had to go, the land could have been deeded to the state for the establishment of some sort of Native American historic site. This was a place inhabited by human beings since the time of Christ. Can you imagine the Greeks ripping down the Parthenon? The fact that I, as a taxpayer, paid to disturb hundreds of Native people's graves to make way for a mall makes me sick.