Search The Tattler

Saturday, August 9, 2014

3900 Adeline Crumbles: Profits Stronger Than Brick Walls

Emeryville's Weak General Plan Can't Withstand Developer's Desires

Emeryville's old General Plan recognized the town's formerly extensive portfolio of vernacular historic buildings should not be torn down but instead they should be saved and rehabilitated.  That old plan was replaced with our new plan a few years ago.  The new plan cost us four million dollars and allowed for, among other things, much denser development.  But one thing that didn't change was the call to save Emeryville's significant historic buildings.  The new General Plan qualifies how historic buildings are valuable enough to be left intact.  It's very unequivocal on this.  So unassailable is this seemingly abstract concept in our General Plan, the scale is quantified to individual buildings.  Each individual building is specifically listed, deemed historically and/or architecturally significant.
So bestowed was the recently torn down 3900 Adeline Street; after a multi-year Dresden like campaign of building demolition in town, it was one of Emeryville's last buildings determined to be both architecturally and historically significant.

3900 Adeline Street last week
"architecturally & historically significant"
The building that graced the corner of Adeline and 39th Street for more than a century helped Emeryville create an authentic sense of place.  And that's no small thing; combined with all the other historic and vernacular buildings torn down being replaced with buildings that don't reference place, the town we're re-imagining here could be about Fresno?
If we value community here in Emeryville, this pogrom of historic building destruction is a funny way to show it.

This save-our-heritage sentiment isn't just our opinion.  It's the people of Emeryville that want to save these old buildings.  Our new General Plan, so clear on the fate of 3900 Adeline (and the others) was actually written by the residents themselves.   So many citizens helped formulate the Plan, it received an award for democratic vetting: more than 25% of our citizens took part in the numerous General Plan scoping meetings, a California record for a town our size.

John Protopappas CEO
 Madison Park Financial

Their ironic slogan:
"Commitment to Community".
We're supposed to lose our soul 

because he needs Corinthian leather 
in his Mercedes.
3900 Adeline Street was a building that the people of Emeryville wanted to save.  But there was an emergency.  There was a force bigger than the people of Emeryville loose in our town.   Madison Park, an out-of-town development corporation desperately needs to increase its profits.  And they looked to Emeryville for their fix.  They didn't see any value in the 3900 Adeline Street building.  All they saw was potential profit.  And that's all that's needed for our City Council majority to give the green light for the wreaking crew.  This developer, John Protopappas, CEO of Madison Park Financial, realized he could make a buch of money if he tore down the building and built another 100% rental residential tower filled with studios and one bedroom apartments on the site.  The Council he figured would be push overs, given their reputation.

Push overs they are and the City of Emeryville will not ever make a dime off this transformation; our coffers will not benefit but Mr Protopappas sure will.  The residents will gain lot's more traffic generated by the drive-in drive-out tower and lose something we're clamoring for; an authentic sense of place, the same thing our General Plan says is essential for a livable town.

It's absurd.  The majority of the people of Emeryville can't seem to get their wishes met.  Those who might have looked to our General Plan for protection have been repudiated.  Our General Plan is a weak and pathetic thing.  It's been shown to really only exist to lend a sense of legitimacy for City Hall as it comports among real cities.  A four million dollar document merely to give the impression that Emeryville is a real town..."General Plan?  yeah, we got one of those..."

The will of the people of Emeryville is only as strong as the capricious whims of three Council members who feel developer's pain as it turns out. Our General Plan isn't as strong as these Council members default position to help out their developer friends who's bank accounts are wanting.
The only thing that will change this terrible exigency is to change the Council majority.  November looms....
"We feel...
Madison Park's...


Emeryville, we've got your General Plan right here.

3900 Adeline Street this week
Here's what we think of "architecturally and historically significant".


  1. I disagree, Brian. The General Plan cost was way out of line. And the dreamers who contributed, don't have a cent invested. Redevelopment is a PRODUCTIVE way of updating obsolescence. In this case, the City Council voted properly. Think about it !

    1. Your right, the "dreamers" don't have a cent invested. But they do have a vote invested. Because we live in a democracy, people get to vote...people not corporations (yet). So the question to you is should the people of Emeryville get the kind of town they want? The three Council members that voted to tear down 3900 Adeline said they think the people least they said that in their campaign re-election literature. And so the people voted for the General Plan and they voted for the three Council members thinking that the historically and architecturally significant buildings would be saved. And then the three Council member's hidden agenda was revealed (by the Tattler and to anyone paying attention). If you think this is proper, you're far too cynical in my view. Why not brook in the truth? Why couldn't the three Council members run for election on their REAL agenda, make a persuasive argument and let the people decide if that's what they want? THAT would be proper. Think about it!

  2. I also think it is a real shame that the City apparently did nothing to help relocate "Classics by Steve" a classic car repair shop that used part of this building. Was always great to drive by and see the beautiful cars they worked on. We have plenty of empty warehouse space in town! When this sort of thing happens there should be a "Keep Emeryville Businesses in Emeryville" effort by City Hall. Ahhh well.

  3. OK, I thought about it, and I still disagree. No politician, who wants to win election, is going to say anything but what they think the electorate wants to hear. Sometimes they "bend" the truth. Maybe it's time for Term Limits in Emeryville. That aside, I think the economic benefits of this particular redevelopment project, located where it is, far out weigh the asthetic and obsolete link to the past.

    1. Your answer is the people of Emeryville should not get the kind of city they want. The people are too stupid to know that we can't save old buildings in town and they need an authority figure to patronize them. The people need to be tricked. That's about as cynical a view as is possible.

      So how do you tell the difference between politicians that want to do right by the people of Emeryville and those that only say they will, to get votes? We could accidentally vote for Council members that actually DO want to save the historic buildings as the General Plan dictates. We'd be in a pickle then because the historic buildings wouldn't be torn down. Think how bad that would be.
      It's interesting that nobody running for or on the Council now is laying out your argument that these historic buildings must be destroyed...I mean you DO have a cogent argument for that, right? You portray it as somehow fiscally responsible...why couldn't a politician make that argument (what ever it is) and garner votes that way? Then they wouldn't have to lie and all the people in Emeryville that agree with you could vote for the historic building demolishers running for Council. Why do they have to be covert about their intentions?

      Oh, and please tell us what the "economic benefits" are. Because the Director of Housing and Economics at City Hall tells us there are no economic benefits for City Hall for housing projects. They are net revenue neutral. Please tell us what you know that they don't. If you can show economic benefit for new housing projects in Emeryville, I'll post that as a Tattler story.

  4. I lived in that building for 13 years - trust me, there is nothing significant about it except the dirt.

    1. Well, we can trust you, Mr Anonymous or we could trust the General Plan prepared by city planning experts and vetted by more than 25% of the people of Emeryville.

  5. The General Plan didn't say the building was significant either. Nor was it eligible for listing on the State Register of Historic Places. In my experience there can be disconnect between what the State says is significant, what historic resources experts say is significant and what the public thinks is significant. You like to rely on "city planning experts" for the General Plan, so it makes sense to rely on experts for historic resources evaluations as well. I also take the anonymous commenters comment with a grain of salt. It's interesting anecdotal information, but it's not expert opinion, which we do have.

    1. Sorry, the General Plan in fact does deem 3900 Adeline Street as "architecturally and historically significant". We spent two million dollars outright and another two million in staff time (according to City Hall) to write the plan. The people that wrote the plan are city planning experts that deemed this building to be significant. Two other buildings so deemed have also subsequently been torn down since the plan was written a few years ago it should be mentioned.

  6. Where do you see that in the General Plan? I reviewed the list of historic resources in Table 6-2 and Figure 6-1 and 3900 Adeline isn't on there. The index for the General Plan only identifies discussion of historic resources in Chapter 6. I reviewed the entire chapter and I don't see anything. Please point me to it.

    1. Zoning is an implementation of the General Plan so it's at 9-5.1201 through 9-5.1211 EMC Title 9 Section 5 article 12 Preservation of Structures. One area where you're technically correct or at least you have an argument is the "historically significant" designation. As it turns out Oakland doesn't have provisions for a designation of "architecturally significant" and so they have deemed 4900 Adeline (the building was partially in that city) to be "historically significant". Emeryville doesn't have historical provisions, only architectural provisions, hence it's classification of the building formerly at 3900 Adeline Street.