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Monday, August 11, 2014

Bay Street Mall Developer Auctions Off the Public Commons

Corporation Sells Public Parking Spots

Illegal Clandestine Rental Agreement Revealed

News Analysis/Opinion
Madison Marquette, the Washington DC based Bay Street Mall development corporation has been caught renting for profit Emeryville's public property City Hall revealed today.  In a memo issued to Madison Marquette and the Police Department, the City ordered the mall developer to cease and desist a bogus rental agreement between Madison and Crepes a la Carte, a vendor selling food stuffs in a parking spot on Bay Street, a City owned thoroughfare.  The memo indicated Crepes a la Carte could however obtain a street vendor permit through the City, not Madison Marquette.  It was not revealed how much rent the vendor has been paying the private development corporation for the invalid use of the public's space, nor for how long.

Madison Marquette usurps public property for
its own material gain.
An investigation into the agreement between Madison Marquette and the City of Emeryville made as part of the approval process in 2000, shows a very unusual arrangement.  The public-looking sidewalk is actually owned by Madison Marquette, a request the developer made during the negotiations with the City.  The privatized sidewalks allow Madison to garentee the retail stores along the sidewalk, no protestors or other undesirable types will be allowed.  The City retains ownership of the street including the parking spaces.  However the parking meters are owned by Madison and they collect the money generated.  The City gets the revenue from parking meter violations, bringing into question how the City can fine someone for a claim of violation from a private company using privately owned meters.  Do the meters work properly?  The public is placed in jeopardy without recourse.
Also Crepes a la Carte has not been paying money into the meter (instead they've been paying rent) as part of the illegal arrangement with Madison, unfairly removing a source of possible revenue for the City.

The private parking meters for a public parking space (without rental violations like Crepes a la Carte) itself calls into question the idea that a private corporation should make a profit for use of public space.  We can't see how the people of Emeryville benefit from this relationship.  It's our land, we think any money generated from it should go to us or there shouldn't be any money generated at all like in the rest of Emeryville.  But we are especially dismayed that a private corporation has been charging rent for use of our space.  The City is right to stop the illegal rental agreement today and we think it's time to call back the problematic parking meter arrangement with Madison.

The whole idea that sidewalks be given away to developers should be anathema to any City Hall supposedly working in the people's interests.  Bay Street was the first of three major sidewalk give aways to private developers City Hall has arranged.  Fortunately, the Tattler caught wind of another attempt to privatize the sidewalks at the Public Market development and nipped that in the bud along with another give away attempt at a future hotel on Shellmound Street.
For Madison Marquette however the gift of the Bay Street sidewalks obviously wasn't enough for them.  They wanted more in the form of this quiet illegal rental agreement.  We think we should stop blurring the line between public and private space least the greedsters cheapen and usurp the commons like this.  Old fashioned public sidewalks are a perfectly good idea...they don't need 'improving' by privatizing them.


  1. Great story Brian. Isn't it plain to see that Madison Marquette is not to be trusted? They obtained an $18 million from the Redevelopment Agency and try to finagle themselves out of $6 million of it with Council Member Nora Davis calling it a "creative" financial arrangement, all the while knowing it could be possibly illegal (which it turned out to be.) Was this a "creative" scheme approved by former City Managers John Flores or Patrick O'Keeffe and if so, they should be held accountable.

    The undeveloped site, Site B, should immediately go out to bid and developed instead of sitting there fallow for over 10 years. All ties should be severed with M-M, whatever "rent" was paid and parking meters revenue returned to Emeryville. Is John Lacoste still lurking around here?

    Interesting that schemes like this are being uncovered. Does anyone at City Hall perform audits on business taxes paid by developers like M-M? I know they did an audit on an independent gas station which ended up in $8,000 more that had to be paid. It fits the pattern of doing business here: pick on the small businesses and let the big ones cheat their way out.

  2. Do you ever consider the benefit the city gets from Bay Street. about 25% of the city's money comes from Bay Street. This center is successful. Bay Street was created in the middle of their private land. They did not use public land for their street. Maybe there is a reason they collect the revenue. They wabted to install parking meters, and the city did not have an enforcement program. It is their street.

    Why do they have to give the city anything other than the taxes. I appreciate your hard work keeping the community aware. however, you don't provide a complete picture such as how and why collect the parking money. They are trying to sell the center. You may be helping to drive them out of town.

    1. "Do you ever consider the benefit the city gets from Bay Street" Yes I consider it.

      "This center is successful" Yes, it's wonderful that we get money from it.

      "Bay Street was created in the middle of their private land" Yes, that was part of the negotiated deal with the City.

      "Maybe there is a reason they collect the revenue" Yes, Madison Marquette wanted the revenue and the City said OK.

      "It is their street" If you mean it's Madison Marquette's street, you are incorrect, it's the City's street.

      "Why do they have to give the city anything other than the taxes" Why not? It's all about the deal negotiated between the City and Madison Marquette. As long as the US and California constitutions are not violated, it's all good whatever gets negotiated.

      "They are trying to sell the center. You may be helping to drive them out of town" Yes, they want to maximize profits. But if they want to do business in Emeryville, they must obey the law and abide by their agreements with the City. If my pointing out illegal activity on their part sinks Madison Marquette, then they're too weak and they don't deserve to be in business in our town.

  3. Great story Brian. Great response above as well. I am wondering if everyone that gets a parking violation on that street from M-M has a legitimate argument for not paying the fine to the City. Also what happens if we form a large protest in the street? As long as your not standing on the sidewalk and private property can you protest all you want? It's this type of underhanded entwine between the City and other entities that drain my confidence in their ability to be entangled with the EUSD and ECCL. By the way has anyone asked if it is going to be the city or the schools who will pay to turn on the lights? I haven't got a clear answer yet on something as simple as that. Now talk about the parking around there? We're in for it. Let the confusion commence.