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Sunday, March 18, 2012

City Hall Pushing North Hollis Undergrounding

City Hall In Bed With Wareham: Undergrounding Utilities

For the last two years the city of Emeryville has joined with Wareham Development Corporation to pursue the undergrounding of overhead electrical wires in the North Hollis Street area through use of a special assessment district authorized to levy taxes on property owners; a move that has raised the ire of many property owners in the district.  The property owners have cried foul since Wareham would recieve taxpayer cash back for undergrounding work it has already done on its own accord, an
unwarranted benefit from the cozy relationship it has cultivated with City Hall.

The assessment district funding for North Hollis undergrounding is part of a long term city plan to ultimately remove overhead wires throughout the city but unlike North Hollis, the utility undergrounding work for other parts of the city up til now has been paid for by the now defunct Redevelopment Agency and developers.
The North Hollis Assessment District extends along the Hollis Street corridor from just south of Powell Street up to the Berkeley border.

Rich Robbins:
President of the influential 

Wareham Development 
Assessment districts are formed by a vote of property owners in the proposed district, with 50% (by geographic area) needed to create a taxing entity.  Wareham Development, the largest landowner in the proposed North Hollis Assessment District district, was an early supporter as was HFH Ltd, another property owning firm on Hollis Street.  After it became clear these two large property owners' acreage was not quite enough to reach 50%, the city itself, being the owner of three small parcels of land, threw their vote in, tipping the total just over the 50% magic number.
Other property owners in the district found the prospects of being forced to pay for the assessment district onerous and they are forming their own association, the Emeryville Property Owners Association, to challenge the Wareham/City Hall juggernaut.
 The CEO of HFH Ltd, Andy Getz, has subsequently withdrawn support for the district, leaving Wareham and City Hall as the sole supporters, putting the undergrounding work on hold.

Members of the nascent Property Owners Association noted their objections to the heavy handed tactics used by the city and Wareham, including hints of back room deals, at a city sponsored meeting last week.  Some of the property owners have expressed displeasure that Wareham has already paid for the undergrounding of utilities as part of the Planning Department approval process for its new development projects in the district and that Wareham would receive back hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city if the assessment district is formed.  The city required Wareham, a San Rafael based corporation, to underground the utility poles for the Hollis Street block north of Powell Street as part of the conditions of approval for the new EmeryStation Greenway building last year and Wareham would receive cash back for the portion of undergrounding it has done not immediately adjoining  their new building.  The other property owners would split these costs with Wareham. 

If the North Hollis undergrounding proceeds by way of the North Hollis Assessment District, the city will help pay for the work, more than a million dollars, paid out of the General Fund.


  1. Also, the city bought three parcels of land on Christie Ave near the Public Market with redevelopment money, which has to be paid back to the state. Who would that land have been developed by? Who other than Wareham?

  2. Does sound rather unfair to the other property owners if Wareham agreed to underground a portion of the wiring as a pre-requisite to approval for its new project - that is a normal cost of development, developers are asked all the time to perform public or quasi-public works in exchange for project approval.

    Letting Wareham shift a portion of their cost back to other property owners - and the City - by forming an assessment district just sounds appalling.

    Perhaps the CIty should recuse itself from voting at all on this undergrounding.

    As a public works project it sounds good in principle, but in all the prior public discussions I have NEVER heard Wareham's obligations under the conditions of approval would be reduced and produce a sizeable windfall for Wareham ...

    I don't hate developers. Honestly I don't, I worked for one. BUT fair is fair ....

  3. This is bullshit. How corrupt can Emeryville be??????