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Friday, December 17, 2010

Emeryville: A Great Place To Work But I Wouldn't Want To Live There

Re-print from the Tattler from last February but always relevant in Emeryville.  Former Finance Director Edmond Suen is no longer employed by the City of Emeryville.  Karen Reid now serves as Chief Financial Officer for the city and she, like Mr Suen thinks Emeryville is a great place to live (for someone else).

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What is it about Emeryville that makes its biggest boosters run for the hills when the sun goes down?

Many of those steering Emeryville's public policy, shaping its urban design and singing its praises loudest, live elsewhere. A telling detail, as it were. At the same time, decisions regularly bend to fit the desires of these same out-of-towners. From the Fire Department to the Police Department to City Hall, virtually no one on the payroll actually lives here.

It's not a question of money. Most officials are paid incomes comfortably into the six figures. City Manager Pat O'Keeffe can afford to, but he must not think Emeryville is the kind of town he wants to live he doesn't. Likewise Planning Director Charlie Bryant and City Attorney Michael Biddle, they don't either. City Engineer and Public Works Director Maurice Kaufman likewise makes his home elsewhere. City Clerk Karen Hemphill lives somewhere close by and Finance Director Edmond Suen thinks Emeryville is a great place to live; just not for him.

The pattern isn't limited to the public sphere. Emeryville's biggest boosters, the Chamber of Commerce, may constantly lecture residents about the good of unfettered development, but living in the midst of it isn't their cup of tea. Chamber CEO Bob Canter loves Emeryville so much, he lives in Martinez. The Chamber's Vice Chairman, Mason Myers, may wax poetic about a magic transformation from post-industrial slum to the Bay Area's best place to live, but to reach him at home, you must first dial 1 (415), just like 
Ken Bukowski.

Is this a case of listen to what we say, not what we do? Maybe the fact that these people are making a handsome living off of the transformation of Emeryville is the real driving force. Follow the money, as it were. Perhaps what is most illustrative is that their vision for Emeryville is so great, even they don't want a part of it.


  1. I heard Bukowski lives rent free in the Doyle Street apartment building he used to own (before he turned it into meth). Now his rent is paid by the new owner, a developer in Emeryville with at least one project to be considered by the city council. How do you think he'll vote on THAT one?

  2. It's so interesting that so many of the staff live elsewhere. In some counties and cities staff must live in their community. How does Nora Davis deal with this as she is very clear about ignoring or demonizing out of towners?

    Who on earth would want to live in a giant shopping mall or to put it more accurately the east bay regional shopping mall? (tebrsm) The city will soon be in ruins again: Large box businesses are closing and malls are on the demise while e-shopping increases. What fools these city staff be! But why should they care, their only investment is in keeping their jobs!

  3. Nora Davis and the rest of the xenophobes on the council only bash out of town labor interests, if it's a development corporation well then out of town is A-OK, as this blog has so deftly reported. They sure do take campaign money from out of towners at election time.

  4. I know that the City's Economic Development Coordinator lives in Emeryville. urthermore, it is very difficult for some employees to live in the City. The California Fair Political Practices Commission prohibits city planners from working on discretionary projects which are within 500 feet of property they own. In a small city like Emeryville a 500-foot radius circle eliminates a significant portion of the City. In a planning department with only 2 current planners, it becomes very difficult to operate if one planner can't work on a large number of projects. It's definitely a liability for the department and the employee.

  5. The above comment is obviously from a city hall staff member that doesn't want to live in Emeryville.
    Good point however about the 500 foot radius problem for the two planning dept staffers. But what about everyone else? There's more than one hundred of them. This explanation only answers for two.

  6. Note to readers:

    There are "about 200" employees working for the City of Emeryville, according to City Hall as of 12/10.

  7. It is unreasonable to expect very many of the staff to live in a city that is as small as Emeryville. I'm sure most Emeryville employees live in the Inner East Bay. In larger cities such as Oakland or San Francisco, this is a more reasonable position. All that matters is that the staff cares about the City and carries out the wishes of the City Council. I have not seen anything to suggest otherwise.

  8. To the commenter above at 10:47:
    I think many people might take issue with your conclusion that the staff 'cares about the City". There has been much over the years to suggest otherwise. Indeed, this is one of the reasons this blog exists: the idea that the powers that be have a different agenda then the ordinary residents; those with the vested interest that truly care about the City.

  9. As a city employee, I sure wouldn't want to live in this town, the corruption, the unrestrained development, the joke of a measure J, have fun paying that one off, suckers.
    No, I'd rather live in a town that is governed by the people and isn't full of homeless, even though there is a LOT of money in the town.

  10. Violated Rights (Emeryville Police and CVS) ? I was walking thru CVS this morning. It was quiet. The manager (asian man; the first obvious difference between the men) went quickly after a black man, then receded when he approached me. I asked "whats up" and the manager mumbled and walked away. I went on about my business thinking maybe he thought the guy was stealing or something. I went to pharmacy and as I'm looking at meds, the black guy pops, crouched behind a cabinet, up toward me, but remains bent (apparently hiding) and rushes behind another counter. I quickly part toward the front and am met by the manager again, who mumbles in response to my inquiry and appears to play out like nothing is wrong; like I am making things up. I go to the counter and tell the clerk, "something is wrong here. this guy is an idiot and doesn't seem to get something is wrong and scaring me to ...", at that point the manager goes running out the front door and the black guy goes running after him. I ask the clerk to "call the police. can't you see your manager is being chased?" She said, "no, not if you're going to call him an idiot". WTF?. She then decides to say, "he(who?) is undercover". No sooner than she said that when the black guy, the manager and an older white man, who I recognized as another quiet shopper (apparently clueless), came back in the door walking slowly. I said, "you all handles that all wrong. you should be wrapping me up in your shit. tell me." The black guy (undercover) says, "mind your own business home-boy (yes I am white). I find it appalling they behaved as they did toward me, an innocent bystander scared, afraid I was going to get caught up in some crossfire. I'm confused as to why they treated the accused shoplifter as they did. How they had the right to run him down the block, arrest him and bring him back to the store? I called the police and said, "i think i got caught in a sting operation at CVS". They arrived, didn't let me tell the story; went inside and came out two minutes later, "its alright. its loss recovery". It wasn't alright by me, was my response, I don't deserve to be caught up in their play, nor does a citizen deserve to be apprehended on a public street by a corporate 'loss control'. I think I deserve better and I think the accused had his rights violated (and over what may have been a candy bar, if anything at all). They could have just approached him, had a conversation with him and asked him to leave. End of story. The manager could have showed some leadership to assure the safety and comfort of all people, instead of mumbling and lurking around corners. Instead, they played out a boys game and I was caught in the middle without my prior consent. The poor store clerk was caught in the middle and concerned with petty things; she just didn't understand the nature of the first hand experience of being caught up in what appeared to me to be a real life threatening situation. Meanwhile, one of the other officers who responded, asked a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk, "you got your ID? he said, 'no', then the officer wrote him a ticket"; likely for sitting on CVS property and apparently without an 'ID'. I'm just losing touch with what is right and wrong; who are the police serving most and equally, when did corporations have the right to apprehend someone for suspicion on the public streets under the guise of "loss prevention". Regardless, considering all the public shootings, "loss prevention" needs to be respectful of other peoples experience and definitely don't engage racial slurs; it just exposes CVS's toward further liability.