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Friday, December 10, 2010

Pixar's 'Bike Path To Nowhere' Nears Completion

Bike Committee Says 'No Thanks' But Pixar Forges Ahead: 
Pixar Is Ready To Finish Strange Unconnected $735,000 Bike Path

The asphalt has been laid and workers are finishing the landscaping and the pedestrian amenities of a curious bicycle/pedestrian path tucked behind the I-Hop and the CVS pharmacy on San Pablo Avenue that stretches between Park Avenue and 45th Street.  Pixar has announced the path, they call a "linear park", will be completed by mid January and will cost the animation giant  $735,964.   The path will facilitate bikers and pedestrians in extreme comfort  who's travel plans involve passage between Park Avenue and 45th Street in the vicinity of San Pablo Avenue.

The path is being constructed as part of a development deal between Pixar and the City of Emeryville but in a strange twist, Pixar is building the path against the wishes of Emeryville's own Bike/Pedestrian Committee.  It's the odd culmination of a story of the logic of bike/ped connectivity being twisted to conform to Pixar's greater interest in secrecy and land consolidation.

The strange story of the "bike path to nowhere" begins in the 1990's with a planned path extending north from City Hall along the trace of an old rail road spur a half block east and parallel to Hollis Street.  Starting at 45th Street and heading north, the old rail line has been turned into an alley known as Spur Alley.  Spur Alley was intended as a bike path but it has been instead turned over to cars in subsequent years because the city hasn't mustered the political will and because it never required the section heading south to City Hall at Haven Street to be built when Pixar took over the vacant land in 2000.  Instead, the city permitted Pixar to jog the incipient path over to the east two blocks to Watts Street owing to Pixar's need for secrecy.  This change happened just after the Bike Plan was first completed and was changed administratively by City Hall*.  Then Pixar wanted to take possession of Watts Street and they were given the street by the city, so again the city permitted Pixar to jog the path east, this time to Emery Street.  This required another Bike Plan change.  Then Pixar planned a campus expansion so the city gave them Emery Street and granted Pixar permission to jog the path over to the east one last time to it's final resting place behind the I-Hop.  This last change also required a change to the Bike Plan.

Got all that?

The Pixar main gate is aligned with
 what used to be Watts Street
By the time of the last change when Pixar took possession of Emery Street, the Bike/Pedestrian Committee had enough of jogging this path to the east.  Committee members expressed dismay that the path was now so far shifted to the east that the original path was rendered useless for biking or walking.  The committee subsequently voted unanimously to let Pixar off the hook for building the path but asked that they give a cash payment to the city for the amount of money the path would have cost them to build.  The committee instructed the city to use the money to upgrade biking and pedestrian facilities throughout the city on a "as needed" basis.

Strangely, Pixar would have none of that and announced it planned to build the bike/ped path anyway, the committee be damned.  The city council ceded to Pixar's desire and the path, by now unofficially dubbed the "Bike Path To Nowhere" after the famous bridge in Alaska, is nearly completed.

On a side note, the street given to Pixar, Emery Street, required that the city change an agreement it had made previously with a housing developer, The Castle Group, to build housing on the site where the path now sits.  The housing was an ambitious project, touted by the city to revitalize San Pablo Avenue and support the shops in the Promenade Center such as Arizmendi Bakery. There were 102 units ready to be built, many of them three bedroom and suitable for families.  The site is only one short block from the future new school that is to be built for $400 million and just approved by voters in November.  Ironically, the city is now in the process of trying to build as much family housing as possible to support the new school.

The city quietly gave Pixar the land, valued at $2 million, where the housing was supposed to be and in a strange shell game, turned around and accepted $2 million from Pixar as a much touted "donation" to build a proposed arts center near City Hall.

The path may be seen here: Pixar Study

* Correction: According to former council member Greg Harper, the first change, jogging the path east to Watts Street was made by a vote of the council, not administratively.  Mr Harper was on the council at the time and he says he voted in the minority, against the change.  This correction was made on Monday December 13.


  1. It is odd that you find this strange.

  2. thank you for this informative article (with no blasphemous or offensive words!) about two years ago, the council announced pixar's generosity in contributing $2 million for the proposed art center. then councilman fricke corrected the four other members to state that this $2 million was to pay for the lot behind ihop. now again this year, ruth atkin announced that pixar is donating $2 million to the art center. has anyone noticed that the pixar lot is almost, if not twice, the size of the dutro park parcel for which the city paid dutro $5 million. if this $2 million is in fact goingn to the art center, then according to my math, pixar is get that lot for free.

  3. Thank you Shirley for the information about the false claim made by council member Ruth Atkin regarding the Pixar "donation". It appears this false claim will continue to be spread by some of the council members, even after it has been publicly rebuked. While we have nothing against Pixar, we don't appreciate council members making untrue statements to the public, especially since the taxpayers had to pay for the land in the swap deal.

    Please continue to apprise us when this myth of the $ 2 million donation is perpetrated as you hear of it.

  4. And that is why the council and council staff complain that they have no revenue. Business tax is almost non-existant for these giants, give-aways are plenty. Did you see Walt Disney Pixar support measure J by offering to build a wing or any other part of the school--not a dime?
    It's time for the state/feds to step in and take a look at what's happening in E-ville.