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Friday, April 27, 2012

City To The Poor: You People Are "Not A Good Fit"

City: "We've "Invested Millions Of Dollars On The Improvement Of The San Pablo Area", We Don't Want Poor People Mucking It Up

The City Council agrees with the staff: poor people are not a good fit at the corner of San Pablo Avenue and 38th Street in Emeryville...especially since they've spent a lot of money fixing up the area.

A Christian outreach organization to the poor called Ohana Community Outreach, expressed interest in expanding the former Emeryville Community Action Program (ECAP) emergency support for the poor by purchasing a building at 3800 San Pablo Avenue (sometimes called the MAZ building) to be used as the outreach central location.  ECAP and now Ohana have been dispensing help for the poor in a cramped building a couple of blocks south of the Maz site but they want to expand.  And that's where the trouble arises.
In an April 3rd memo from Emeryville City Manger Pat O'Keeffe to the city council, the council is reminded about the sizable investment the city has made to that part of San Pablo Avenue, specifically that intersection, called the Star Intersection.
Summing up the recalcitrance for having poor people congregate in the new proposed building use, Mr O'Keeffe reminded the council the Community Development Commission (formerly called the Redevelopment Agency and comprised of the city council members) had set a development path for the area and it's incompatible with poor people.
The memo asserts, "With respect to [Ohana's] use of the space at 3800 San Pablo Avenue, the city council concurred with staff that this location is not a good fit with the Commission's plans for the Star Intersection.  The City and the Commission have invested millions of dollars of redevelopment funds on the improvement of this area."

Ohana for its part has pledged to not use any public funds to engage in any religious proselytizing or other such activities, instead using those funds for emergency help for the poor only.

Outraged over proposed city cuts to funding for the poor through ECAP/Ohana, former councilman Ken Bukowski has been taking it to City Hall: The city needs to continue it's modest support for the poorest among us by continuing to fund emergency food and clothing aid instead of cutting it he says.  It's a basic question of priorities; after all City Hall gives lavishly to favored developers, millions in subsidies for development projects, some with questionable returns.  He has been calling on the city to continue the funding at the approximately same rate the city has historically paid ECAP: $50,000 per year.  We agree with Mr Bukowski. 

But the city's attempt to thwart Ohana's legitimate purchase of the Maz building is a bridge too far.  This April 3rd memo, while we admire its naked transparency in revealing City Hall's behind-the-scenes anti-poor organizing principles, is outrageous.  We call on City Hall to reveal their real intentions regarding our collective responsibilities towards the poor in our midst's.

1 comment:

  1. The motives behind the April 3 memo are unclear, and while this article does a good job of bringing the issue to light, it really doesn't make the motive behind that memo any clearer.

    Proposals about zoning and use restrictions by their very nature create winners and losers. Prudent use of past investments is something we should all favor. A better question to ask is how to accommodate Ohana if the city finds that the Star Intersection is not the right place.