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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bike Boulevard Constrains Sherwin Williams Project, Developer Not Concerned

Developer Can Count to 3
Ready to Invest Millions But He's Not Worried

If a developer came to town hawking a development proposal in which he planned to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and there existed a document at City Hall, a lawful bicycle plan that would massively impact and curtail that development, wouldn't you think the developer would have a keen interest in knowing the details of that document?  That's what we thought.  But imagine our surprise when we recently asked Sherwin Williams developer Joe Ernst about Emeryville's Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan and it's impact on his project.  Mr Ernst said he had heard of the document but he hadn't read it...not in the five years he and his team had planned the development proposal for the Sherwin Williams site.  After we told him that the Bike Plan provides for traffic diverters on Horton Street, the major street servicing his project, Mr Ernst told us yes, he would check out this plan of ours.
It seemed like the developer wasn't really interested in something that any rational person in a similar position would know all the details of, front to back before anything else.  Surely, we thought, the Planning Department staff at City Hall had alerted Mr Ernst of the Ped/Bike Plan and its traffic calming on Horton Street, but if they did, Mr Ernst seemed happily oblivious.

Then it became obvious: Joe Ernst can count to three.  Nora Davis / Kurt Brinkman, Ruth Atkin; one, two, three.
Sherwin Williams Developer Joe Ernst
from SRM Ernst Development Partners
Phlegmatic and undemonstrative:
 He knows how to play the game in Emeryville.

Mr Ernst doesn't need to concern himself with our pesky Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan and how it would severely limit traffic to and from his project.  Mr Ernst it appears, has counted up the three votes needed for his project on the City Council.  He knows he can depend on these three council members to amend the Bike Plan (and the General Plan) to get rid of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard.

Why else would a developer take so little interest in such a would be consequential document?  Especially since these three Council members have shown they are willing to do what it takes to assuage the interests of developers, be it overturning the Planning Commission, amending the General Plan or removing a bike/pedestrian path.
For years, Ms Davis / Mr Brinkman and Ms Atkin have shown themselves to be pro-developer ideologues.  Mr Ernst knows his project is in good hands. The fact he hasn't even feigned an interest in our Bike Plan gives an indication of his comfort with and faith in the Emeryville City Council majority.


  1. And what a stinker of a development this thing is turning out to be! We have more than enough 1-bedroom apartments for unmarried 20-somethings in town. Would developers and the Council majority just STOP IT ALREADY?! They all put on their campaign literature that they are going to work for family-friendly affordable housing, but we see now that promise was nothing but election year bluster. If they dare to run again, then hang this and the MAZ around their necks so people can see what they really stand for.

  2. If they are so bad, why do you yahoos keep voting them in?
    I think Nora Davis has been involved in E'ville politics longer than I have been alive, yet you still keep voting the old hag in.

    No one but yourselves to blame for the sorry state of affairs in your city.

  3. Hats off to the Tattler for connecting the dots. From what's going on under our noses, it's not looking good for resident-friendly, bike-friendly outcomes for the Sherwin-Williams project.

    Let's fight while there's still time to see imaginative proposals that will please more than the developer.

  4. Brian,

    Unfortunately your assessment could not be further from the truth. Frankly, from what is in the public record, I am not sure how you can arrive at these conclusions. At our very first meeting with the Park Avenue Committee, I had not yet read the Bike/Ped plan. I will give you that. But since that time I have and we are on record supporting the policies that impact our project site. From the outset, we have been very clear we support the Horton Street Bicycle Corridor and the need to install traffic calming devices to preserve a safe environment for cyclists. See the video from the Planning Commission Study Session. We have said we'd support such devices between Sherwin and 45th if this is where the community wants to install its calming measures. You know this. I don't mind you raising legitimate differences in support of community wants and needs, but please don't mislead others with false information. We want a good, mutually beneficial working relationship with the community going forward. Thank you.

    1. If you re read the piece, you'll note the point I'm trying to make is that it's most unusual that a developer would not be interested in familiarizing himself with a legal municipal framework that would constrain his own proposed multi-million dollar project. The fact you had not read our Bike Plan is most interesting. I think it doesn't represent an oversight on your part, rather a comfort level you must have with the three Council members. What other conclusion would a rational person make, especially since you're putting so much money at risk. To be so cavalier with your investment is most unusual. Your statement (above) that you are accepting of the constrains of the Plan is something I would expect you would say publicly, the obvious reasons being that there's no law broken on your part if this is sentiment not entirely true and your interests would be served by such a public statement regardless of any contradictory subterfuge on your part. To put it bluntly; we would expect you to say this now.

      Iv'e always assumed developers wouldn't break the law but they would misrepresent themselves if it served their financial interests. I've seen it too many times to assume anything different. Developers after all are interested in making a profit be it for their shareholders or simply in service of their bottom lines. You may not fit this mold, and I hope you don't, but if that were the case, that would make you an outlier...and we shouldn't construct public policy based on assuming outliers are the norm. To act that way would be to act the rube. That's no way to conduct public policy. We have assume each profit seeking entity is normal, not an outlier.

      Having said all this, I hope it's true that you are comfortable with our Bike Plan and you won't work behind the scenes to subvert it. Hope only goes so far though as I'm sure you can sympathize.
      Thanks for your comment.