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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Council Grants Madison Marquette Exclusive Development Rights

Madison Marquette's Special Favors To Continue
Council Does Mall Developer's Bidding Two More Years

Tonight the Emeryville city council granted Bay Street Mall developer Madison Marquette another two years exclusive development rights to the empty land north of the mall at a contentious council meeting.  Added to the six years already granted, the developer will enjoy eight years of exclusive rights. The council voted 4-1 with Jennifer West dissenting.  More than 20 residents spoke urging the council to open up the valuable land for all developers to make proposals.

The council refused to consider requiring a fee to hold the land for the developer to partially offset the loss in revenue the city has experienced by the fallow land.

The majority of the contention centered on how a better project could be had were competition to be allowed but Council member Ruth Atkin dismissed any such talk, "competition happened in 2004" Ms Atkin sniffed, referring to the first year the council selected Madison Marquette for exclusive development rights.   Council member West spoke in favor of opening up the process to "new possibilities, new thinking" but was rebuffed by her colleagues.

Council member Ken Bukowski dared residents to vote him out of office if they didn't like his support for extending the exclusive rights to Madison Marquette, "You can vote us [the council] out" he taunted.

But the most fire came from Mayor Nora Davis.  The mayor took umbrage with the residents that spoke out against the ongoing special favors the city keeps granting Madison Marquette, and she said such talk "undermines people's confidence in the representative elected officials" raising the specter of wholesale people power for Emeryville.  She reprimanded residents that the "original concept" of the Bay Street mall was to have "one large mall" extending all the way to Powell Street.  "We have to get serious" she said as a warning to those who would ask for a better use of the land, possibly by a different developer.

The residents made much reference to establishing a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) with the developer of the site.  A CBA is a legal agreement between residents and a developer and it is set up to assure a project enhances a community.  Mayor Davis expressed a surprising ignorance of the idea of a CBA stating it isn't needed since the Bay Street mall already benefits the community by "strengthening the tax base".  This is the same recycled rejoinder that has been offered by city officials each year the council extends Madison Marquette's exclusive developing rights.  "It's the same argument every year; what disrespect"  said one dejected resident shuffling out of City Hall after the 4-1 vote.


  1. I hereby accept Bukowski's challenge: I will do my part to remove him (and Nora Davis) from office. Next election, let's see how Bukowski does, even WITH the support of the Chamber of Commerce.

    Bukowski, you may regret your dare.

  2. The arrogance of Nora Davis never cases to amaze. I think we need to lump her in with Ken Bukowski and give them both a send off next election. Ken will be an easy mark, Nora, a bit more difficult but necessary work nonetheless.

  3. The vacant site B at Bay Street which has been
    granted as exclusive building rights to Madison Marquette for two more years, reminds me of a story about Abraham Lincoln. In a debate, his opponent kept interrupting by interjecting, "I conceive..." and was told by the moderator each time to sit down and be quiet. Finally, Lincoln said, "My opponent has conceived six times and brought forth no issue." Similarly, our selected builder has fired blanks six times in a row, with no particular plan. This can't be blamed just on the economy, which hadn't yet tanked five and six years ago. The city is now confined to two more years of nothing, when interesting offers could have been pouring in from all over the world for that splendid site. We don't HAVE to build only quick-profit condos and merchandise outlets in this amiable town by the bay. It's possible, if that location had been opened up, that some very interesting alternatives might have been proposed. Why not, for instance, a concert hall, a convention center, an East Bay MOMA, a religious institution, a branch of UC Berkeley? The possibilities are great. Emeryville needs some class, some vision, not more insipidity, but it looks like it's going to be more of the same, and that's a shame.
    --Joe Cohen