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Monday, June 29, 2015

Alameda County Grand Jury Finds Emery Unified School District in Violation of Transparency Laws

School District In Violation of Brown Act

"Lack of Transparency" Cited by Grand Jury 

The Alameda County Grand Jury released its 2014-2015 report today implicating the Citizens' Oversight Committee (COC) of the Emeryville Measure K school parcel tax initiative of violations of California's Brown Act, the so called 'sunshine law'.  The COC is tasked by Sacramento with overseeing taxpayer money spent by the Emery Unified School District in regard to the voter approved Measure K school parcel tax last November.  The Grand Jury found the Committee "has not followed" the Brown Act but cleared the District of a more serious charge filed that the District had engaged in improper expenditure of funds related to Measure K.

The Grand Jury report concluded "notices and minutes of the oversight committee meetings were not provided to the public".  Further, the report chastised Emery, "...without notice, the public does not have the opportunity to attend" and therefore limits the public to have input on how the public funds are spent.  The Grand Jury "believes this creates a lack of transparency".   In effect, the School District has been conducting what amounts to closed door meetings as public funds are dispersed by the Committee.

The Brown Act was set up to ensure transparency for these kinds of meetings and provides criminal misdemeanor penalties where committee member(s) "deprive the public of information to which the member knows or has reason to know the public is entitled".
The Grand Jury provided no remedy for transparency transgressions at Emery beyond that which the Brown Act provides.

The whole report can be viewed HERE (Emery Unified School District on page 105)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

'Regional Approach' for Public Policy

Never Mind What You've Heard: 
Here's the REAL 'Regional Approach'

News Analysis/Opinion
It all started in 1993 when the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled same sex couples the freedom to marry.  That action put pressure on Massachusetts progressives who fought to legalize same sex marriage there in 2003.  After that, the political pressure grew exponentially; Connecticut forced same sex marriage laws in 2008, followed by Iowa, Maine and New Hampshire in 2009.  Then it was just a matter of time until the pressure became too great on law makers in the remaining states and the US Supreme Court finally legalized marriage equity for all last week, properly reflecting the views of the majority of Americans.  It wouldn't have worked any other way.

...led us here in 2015.
Political pressure in 1993
from this...
That's how politics works: political pressure.  And that's what's at play with regard to the minimum wage in the Bay Area and beyond.  In our area, Berkeley pressures Oakland who pressures Emeryville who then pressures Berkeley to raise their wage again.  Eventually a stasis is reached after local values are reflected, the minimum wage having found its natural level between the competing forces of a business community that wants a lower wage and ordinary citizens who want a higher wage  The recent political pressure and subsequent responses by municipalities to raise their wages is reflecting political pressure to correct a previous era of artificially low wages.

Under pressure from the neighbors, Emeryville City Hall, representing the resident's interests, raises the minimum wage here on Thursday after coordinated business interests failed to stop it.  
Two opposing governing visions were brought to the fore; those who agree with the City Council to increase the minimum wage by democratic unilateral Emeryville action versus those who lost; they who argued democracy in this case is unjust and instead Emeryville should let our neighbors directly dictate how we fashion our town, what they called a 'regional approach'.
The idea that we should voluntarily foreclose on our right to make our town the way we see fit and instead defer totally to Oakland and Berkeley was always going to be a tough sell but Rob Arias, the editor of Emeryville's right wing opinion blog the E'Ville Eye positioned himself as the point man in the debate and to his credit, he was relentless and forceful in representing his side of the argument.

E'Ville Eye Editor Rob Arias
During the minimum wage fracas,

 he presented himself as the voice of the 
opposition but his 'regional approach' 
argument is backwards.  Besides being 
fundamentally undemocratic,
  it would unnecessarily lock us into 
region-wide inaction.  
Seized Up
This relinquishing of our own agency in our town's governance was encapsulated by Mr Arias in his 'regional approach' meme.  Emeryville should not act unilaterally he said, regardless of what the residents might want.  Rather we should wait until our neighbors are ready to move.  And then we should all move simultaneously in lockstep.  Mr Arias never addressed an obvious problem inherent in this argument; what about the boundary between Berkeley and say the city of Albany to its north?  Or Oakland and San Leandro to its south?  If Berkeley raises its minimum wage, so must Albany and then of course also the city of El Cerrito further north and so on and so on.  Berkeley would be locked out of raising its minimum wage if Albany didn't raise theirs.  It's a classic tautology: the entire region would be seized up, all waiting for everyone else to move, regional policy in the public interest held hostage to a single recalcitrant municipality.  This sophomoric view doesn't take this simple deconstruction into account; it's inherently contradictory. There's always going to be a boundary where one place has higher wages than its neighbor, rendering the whole argument specious.

Ignoring this existential boundary problem for Mr Arias' regional approach argument, Emeryville's businesses would flee the town for Oakland or Berkeley instead of paying their employees higher wages here we were told.  It's the same argument from 2005 when people taking Rob's position at the time told us the hotel industry was going to flee our town wholesale in the wake of the minimum wage increase for hotel workers brought by Emeryville's Measure C.  This time (like the last time), Mr Arias told us we should take this premise at face value and no evidence was given to support it.  Rob asked us to trust him.  Not mentioned during this was the fact that Mr Arias is running a business (as he himself refers to his blog) and many of the businesses who's interests he was championing in the debate are in fact his clients.

Nevertheless, Mr Arias thumbed his nose at numerous academic studies countering his simplistic regional approach claim and he instead postulated this simple idea that the fungibility of service sector businesses would drive consumers to other towns with lower business costs and therefore lower prices (later when his side appeared to be collapsing, he demanded City Hall conduct a new study, an unexplained refutation of his earlier professed prohibition against studies).
Mr Arias instead presented his regional approach idea as an axiom, something anyone with common sense could see.  It's a neat if not old trick: if you can't see it, there's something inherently wrong with you.  But a trick like this doesn't work in a substantive debate on real public policy, especially one where the agenda is not hidden.  Forceful as he was, Mr Arias did his clients a disservice by not presenting a cogent and rational argument and his argument was not taken up by the City Council who voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage.
The REAL Regional Approach
The City of Emeryville, with its unilateral adoption of the new higher minimum wage, IS engaging in a regional approach to raising wages, regardless of the countering hyperbole emanating from the E'Ville Eye.  It's the REAL regional approach.   Emeryville's raising of the minimum wage will pressure our neighbors to raise theirs.  That's how it works.  That's been shown in countless peer reviewed academic studies Mr Arias finds so distasteful.
Adeline Street Through Emeryville in 2005
Four car lanes, no bikes.
This is just how Oakland looked until last week.
In fact, it's already working, even if Mr Arias can't see it right under his nose.  Political pressure from neighboring municipalities; that's how Oakland raised their wages last year (and likely will again)... it's also how Emeryville's minimum wage was just raised.   None of these wage rises were at the same rates as the neighbors or the same time.  All pushed the boundaries...all were in response to internal political pressure reacting to the outside world.  All happened and continue to happen as a result of democratic action.

Adeline Street in Emeryville 2008 (same view)
We unilaterally added bike lanes without
waiting for Oakland. 
For those wanting to get a glimpse of how a local public policy regional approach actually works, we present the Adeline Street bike facilities.  This street on our eastern border with Oakland originally was a high speed four lane thoroughfare.  But eight years ago Emeryville City Councilman John Fricke, who ran on a campaign platform of more bike facilities, had a better idea for Adeline Street.  He envisioned taking away two car travel lanes, creating a two lane street with ample bike lanes on either side.  Anti-bike/pro-car voices rose up to challenge Councilman Fricke, some even from the City's own Bicycle Committee.  Ultimately these dissenting voices settled on an argument describing what they saw as an absurdity: the short length of Adeline Street through Emeryville would simply constrain the bike riders once they hit the Oakland border, moments after they began their wonderful ride with bike lanes through our town; a waste of public money.  Mr Fricke described how Emeryville's improvements to the street would force Oakland's hand; Oakland's city hall would feel pressure to likewise provide bike lanes on Adeline Street.  After Oakland did just that last week (wahoo!), the political pressure way of regional policy is revealed for all to see (and use).

Emeryville can feel proud of it's progressive minimum wage ordinance that takes effect on Thursday even in the knowledge it's status as the region's highest minimum wage will likely be short lived.  Because political pressure will force other city's hands to further raise their minimum wages....that's the way it works  after all.

Here's the Regional Approach in Action
Now Oakland Gets Bike Lanes Too
Had Emeryville not acted unilaterally, Adeline Street
would likely have no bike lanes in either town.
Political pressure drives politics and policy.
The two foot wide diagonally stripped safety buffer between 
bikes and moving cars actually makes Oakland's new 
Adeline Street bike lanes an improvement over Emeryville's.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Flying at City Hall today:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New Development Proposals Degrade Emeryville Parks/Open Space

'Big Three' Residential Developments Drag Emeryville Down

Tattler Investigation Shows Town Going Backwards on Parks/Open Space

News Analysis
As developers rush to build apartment projects on the last three large plots of fallow land left in Emeryville; the Market Place development, the Sherwin Williams project and the Anton (Nady) site, the Tattler has revealed these residential projects will negatively skew the ratio of residents per acre of park and open space land in our town.  An investigation reveals these projects will substantially increase the number of people per acre of park, exacerbating an already dramatically underserved Emeryville population.
The current lack of park land is something residents often cite as a problem in Emeryville; the General Plan clearly shows this as a problem, and taxpayer funded proposed parks aren't getting built owing to a lack of funds at City Hall.  But it's a subject begging our attention: Emeryville's current 472 residents per acre of park/open space land, a shamefully high number, towers over our neighbor Oakland's 67 residents per acre.  More troubling is the trajectory; if these last three projects get approved as they're proposed, the ratio of people to parks will get much worse in Emeryville with little chance to ever catch up with our neighbors.

The numbers tell the tale:

Population  10,777 (2013)*
Acres of Park/Open Space  22.82
Residents/Acre  472

Population  406,253
Acres of Park/Open Space  6,063
Residents/Acre  67

Population  116,768
Acres of Park/Open Space  235
Residents/Acre  497

*Doesn't include the first phase of the Market Place project, Emme Apartments completed in May 2015; 190 units with approximately 380 total residents.  Other smaller residential projects are also not included.

It's worth noting is how Emeryville's park land is currently distributed; most of it is located in the marina neighborhood leaving the east side of town underserved.

The last three large residential projects will increase our population and two of the projects will increase our park land.  But the new ratio of acres of park land to residents in the Big Three will drive down the ratio of park land to residents for the whole town.
Here's how the 'Big Three' numbers by themselves break:

Market Place Development
Units  456
Acres Park Land Added  .46

Sherwin Williams Development
Units  540
Acres Park Land Added  2.08

Anton (Nady) Development
Units  211
Acres Park Land Added  0

Together these three projects add 1207 units and 2.54 acres of new park land.  Using the double formula (an average of two persons per unit), the total number of people added to Emeryville with these projects will be 2414.  It should be noted however City Hall has said they are pushing for more family friendly units and to the extent they are successful, there may be more than an average of two people per unit for these projects, skewing the numbers presented here, driving up the people per acre.
Here are the numbers of the projects by themselves against Emeryville currently:

Emeryville Currently (2013)
Residents/Acre  472

Market Place Proposal
New Residents  912
Residents/Acre  1983

Sherwin Williams Proposal
New Residents  1080
Residents/Acre  527

Anton (Nady) Proposal
New Residents  422
No Park Land Added

So it can be seen these housing projects actually take Emeryville backwards when it comes to residents per acre and subsequent crowding in our parks/open space.  When added to Emeryville's numbers, these big three projects will skew the numbers against our neighbors thusly:

Emeryville (add 'Big Three')
Population  13277
Acres Park/Open Space  25.36
Residents/Acre  524*

Residents/Acre  67

Residents/Acre  497

*Doesn't include the first phase of the Market Place project, Emme Apartments on 64th Street completed in May 2015; 190 units with approximately 380 residents.  Adding these apartments after they're fully rented would change the total Emeryville number of residents per acre of park to 538.  Also, smaller residential development projects are not included in this calculation but they also will drive the number of residents per acre higher because no other of these proposed small developments will directly add to our park acreage.

Doyle Hollis Park
Emeryville residents can expect our parks to get a lot more
crowded if the 'Big Three' developments get approved.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Emeryville's Architectural Disneyland: De Stijl Land

Emeryville in the 21st Century 
Becomes Utrecht in the 20th Century

De Stijl Look-a-Likes Run Amok
Vernacular Architecture Replaced by Historic Simulacrum

Architectural Criticism
Rietvelt Schroder House Utrecht 1924
Could be Emeryville 2015 
(or anywhere else for that matter). 
What is it about architects now-a-days that all they want to do is try to re-create a heretofore obscure and arcane Dutch modern design regime from the early 20th Century?   It seems like all of our new buildings in Emeryville, especially residential apartment buildings being built now are highly mannerist, evocative of a specific period of early modernism; the De Stijl architectural movement emanating out of Utrecht in the Netherlands as practiced by such luminaries as Theo Van Doesburg and Garrit Rietvelt.

Emeryville's first 90 years were a period of building, a time when the town rose from small farming tracts of the 19th century to a mostly industrial and commercial city resplendent with an archetypal and vernacular architecture.  The second period in Emeryville architectural history, reflecting the town's demographic metamorphosis, is one of destruction of the first period and its replacement.
Garrit Rietvelt 1888-1964
Since his geest is remaking our 
town, we ought to know who he is.
The wholesale destruction of our architectural legacy was a common theme across America especially in the 1950's and '60's so Emeryville is not unique is this regard.  The destruction carrying on well into the 21st century however does make our town unusual.
Even the 'slum clearance' and 'blight' language used by Emeryville's City Managers throughout the period of destruction mirrors the earlier time when the rest of America was learning its lessons about the value of retaining architectural legacy.  Fifty years after America began to reject the overreach of the infamous urban highway builder and slum buster Robert Moses, Emeryville is still carrying on that terrible top down city planning tradition, steeped as it is and was in connected developers privately benefiting at the public's expense.

So most of Emeryville was leveled between 1985 and 2015. And what has risen to take the place of the former city?  De Stijl.  The place is now lousy with De Stijl.
Emeryville's new Parc on Powell Building
Where have we seen this before?

What's Dutch for Deja Vu? 

It's not that we don't appreciate Emeryville's antecedent, the 1915-1931 De Stijl movement.  An offshoot of and a contemporary to the influential Bauhaus movement, the De Stijl brought a distillation of the essential modernist reductionist elements and added a regional flavor to the internationalist aspirations of the Bauhaus practitioners.  Like many authentic cultural and artistic movements before and since, it was a transformative architectural and design polity, magisterial and optimistic in its outlook with minimalist integrity seeking infusion with sublime philosophic ontological meaning.  One only needs a perusal of the writing's of Piet Mondrian, De Stijl's primary fine art representative, to learn of the aspirational and spiritual nature of this movement.

But it's 2015 not 1915 and Emeryville is not Utrecht. And so, as with any mannerist periods, we're left with a mockery; what we're building here and now has all the authenticity and architectural integrity of Disneyland.  Like the Bay Street Mall with its corporate simulated look of a real street with real buildings, these ubiquitous De Stijl knock-offs in Emeryville ultimately serve to alienate.  It's not just that they're cheap copies, it's that they bake in alienation, especially over time as these buildings age. We can't see this aging well.
Elevation 22 Building Hollis Street
Across the street from Parc on Powell.
Replaced  a building from the 1930's;
what some had called one of the best examples
of Art Deco in the East Bay outside
the Paramount Theater.

Sadly, the buildings that were torn down to build these fake buildings replacing them had real architectural integrity and were conceived and build as part of a genuine vernacular aesthetic.  Emeryville is not alone in this it should be noted.  Indeed, fake De Stijl is coast to coast now as cities rush to embrace the anachronistic legitimate architectural manifest of a bygone era.
Emeryville had the bad luck to wipe its land clear of buildings (shall we call it Year Zero?) just as this mannerist style began it's choke hold on architect's imaginations nation-wide, so we're chock-a-block now with this silliness.  Let's try for some real buildings how about, instead of these stage sets.  At least the real De Stijl and the Bauhaus embodied and championed rights for working class people and economic equality.  The new De Stijl is vapid and intoned with architectural arrogance.  It's just a slick look as one would expect to find in the pages of Dwell.      

California Street San Francisco
Fake De Stijl isn't only in Emeryville
Main Street Disneyland
In the manner of Beaux-Arts, Queen Anne, 
Richardsonian Romanesque, Victorian.   
Built in the 1950's, before the De Stijl fad.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sherwin Williams Developer Charts New Course; Skips City Hall

Developer Skittish About New City Council Majority, Bypasses City Hall

Telephone 'Push Poll' Suggests 
Ballot Initiative In The Works

'Supply and Demand' is the New Boss

News Analysis/Opinion
You know it's a new day in Emeryville when a couple of developers can't stroll into town and easily pull a favorable vote out of a compliant City Council, greasing the skids for a huge flawed housing project with practically no community benefits but lots of negative impacts for the residents.  A new day indeed...that kind of thing in the old days could be done with impunity, without the developer even breaking a sweat. But now after Emeryville citizens elected a new progressive Council majority...well, Joe Ernst and Bruce Dorfman, the developers of the Sherwin Williams project, the giant 100% rental residential proposal slated for the Park Avenue neighborhood, are charting a different course to get their project approved.  Starting with a city-wide telephone poll, it would appear they'll be taking their case directly to the people of Emeryville, ending in a voter's ballot initiative on the project, bypassing the newly resident friendly City Council majority and City Hall's pesky planning documents.

Ernst & Dorfman are starting with this...
If you have a telephone land line and you live in Emeryville, you've probably already gotten the call (or soon will); EMC Research, an Oakland based telephone polling and corporate PR company has lately been barraging our town with phone calls paid for by the Sherwin Williams developers.   They've probably called you around dinner time with their classic 'push poll' about housing, to see if you're aware of the law of supply and demand and how Emeryville hasn't built enough housing over the years and about how the low housing supply is why the rents are so high here.  Ostensibly the poll is asking us our opinion on the Sherwin Williams project but it's also pushing us toward the developer's position.  It's a terrible situation with the high rents in Emeryville they agree, but not to worry these pollsters tell us, help is on the way; the developers of the Sherwin Williams site are here to fix all that with their 100 unit per acre 100% rental project.  The Sherwin Williams project will drive down rents in Emeryville the law of supply and demand and the developers tell us in the push poll.

But like Washington's endless phony free trade deals touted to help average working Americans, we're left wondering; if they're right, why hasn't all the housing we've already gotten in Emeryville (and all the free trade deals in Washington) helped yet?  We keep building and the rents keep going up.  In fact, the more we build, the faster the rents rise.  What about the law of supply and demand the developers keep reminding us about?
And why are the developers of Sherwin Williams paying so much money to call Emeryville residents to poll us on this?

Emeryville Doubles RHNA
Supply and Demand
Build enough and eventually
the cost of housing will come down.
Emeryville has been on an apartment and condo building binge over the last 20 years.  We've built so much housing here, we've doubled what the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) recommended to keep pace with needs.  ABAG's calculations of how much housing is needed is compiled in an official assessment called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA, pronounced reena).  The law of supply and demand would assert all this new housing should be lowering the price of housing in Emeryville but in fact the price has been going up...way up.  This is because developers, who want to maximize their profits, have been building only luxury rental apartments recently and that's had the effect of raising rents elsewhere in town....everywhere in town.  What the developers of Sherwin Williams are selling us is simply more of the same.
The strange correlation between building more housing and rising rents has been documented in a recent city funded nexus study on San Francisco housing.  That study shows how counter intuitively, when developers build luxury units, an exponentially rising number of affordable units are needed to keep the city's housing affordability numbers on target.  It has to do with an exponentially rising number of service people needed to cater to the demands of the wealthier people moving in.  The study shows how if the city demands say 15 percent affordable set-asides, then every market-rate building adds more demand for affordable housing than it supplies. That means every new building actually makes the housing crisis worse. 
The counter intuitive notion of more housing causing higher rents creates a space for developers to assert the intuitive but false canard of supply and demand.  
And yet the supply and demand adage keeps running up against reality; everyone now sees how we keep building more housing at a frenetic pace and the cost of housing goes up, also at a frenetic pace.  
Perhaps the developers will tell us Emeryville's double RHNA is the problem....what we really need to drive down rents is quadruple or quintuple RHNA.  A 50 story apartment tower on every parcel in town ought to do the trick.  Emeryville is to become a battle ground...a sacrifice zone in deference to a thick-headed meme put in the service of profit maximizing developers. 

Ballot Initiative on the Way?
...and they hope to get this...
Mr Ernst and Mr Dorfman's  problem was revealed to them in the City Council residential building moratorium vote last February.  While the developers won the fight against the moratorium because it required a super majority of four votes on the City Council, they're now left exposed; the Sherwin Williams project needs a simple majority to pass, three votes out of five.  The moratorium vote clearly showed them they won't get three votes for their flawed project.
We don't imagine Mr Ernst and Mr Dorfman are paying for the telephone poll to try to convince the progressive Council majority they must sacrifice Emeryville to the supply and demand god.   Clearly that's a non-starter.  Their only option is to call a special election (paid for by the taxpayers) to try to convince the citizens it's in their interests to bypass the City Council and overturn Emeryville's General Plan and go all in with their proposed Sherwin Williams housing project. order to overturn this...
The election will likely at least partially be about the abstract supply and demand idea since the Sherwin Williams project as proposed is so clearly not in Emeryville resident's interests.  Maybe our patriotism will be called into question: we've got to do it for the greater good.  But that's an argument the Republicans in Washington have been trying to make for the last six years...we've got to go with austerity because deficit spending is no good they've told us.  Social security must be cut, aid to poor families must be stopped in order to balance the budget.  Americans have rightfully rejected that lie from the Republican Party and we think Emeryville residents won't buy the patently false canard of supply and demand coming from Ernst and Dorfman or any other developers.  The developers have a right to force a special election if they can muster enough signatures, it's true.  But we'll have the right to say NO to turning Emeryville into a sacrifice zone.  We've already done our regional duty by building twice the recommended housing.  Ultra density comes with ultra problems and we're not thinking about abstract memes...we're thinking about our town and how to make it a livable place.
...ultimately getting them lots of this.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Consequential to Emeryville: Court Finds Developers On the Hook for Affordable Housing

From the Los Angeles Times:

Developers can be required to include affordable housing, California high court rules

By MAURA DOLAN  June 15th, 2015

The California Supreme Court decided unanimously Monday that cities and counties may require developers to provide below-market-rate housing as a condition of a building permit.

The decision is expected to make it easier for Los Angeles and other cities with housing shortages to force developers to build or pay for affordable housing.

“There is no reason why a municipality may not ... [require] new developments to set aside a percentage of its proposed units for sale at a price that is affordable to moderate or low income households,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote for the court.

California has a housing shortage, with demand exceeding supply. To ensure cities and counties remain affordable, scores of local governments have passed ordinances requiring developers to provide below-market-rate residences.

Monday's decision stemmed from a constitutional challenge of an affordable housing ordinance passed in San Jose five years ago.

The state building industry, backed by real estate groups, sued and blocked the city from enforcing the law. Developers contended it was unconstitutional “taking” of private property.

The law requires developers building 20 or more housing units to offer  15% at below-market rates or pay into a city fund.

Nearly 200 cities and counties have passed some version of the law.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Ming W. Chin observed that the San Jose ordinance permitted developers to build the affordable units more cheaply than the market-rate housing. An ordinance that required developers to offer housing at below-cost rates might fare differently, Chin wrote.

“Providing affordable housing is a strong, perhaps even compelling, governmental interest. But it is an interest of the government,” Chin wrote. “The community as a whole should bear the burden of furthering this interest, not merely some segment of the community.”

Andrew L. Faber, who represented San Jose before the court, said the ruling would encourage more cities and counties to require developers to build affordable housing.

He said the California Building Industry Assn. has been aggressively challenging such ordinances,  and “this decision is quite a rebuff to their arguments.”

“It is very important because no one disputes that there is a huge affordable housing crisis in California,” Faber said. “Housing prices have gone up, and incomes haven’t risen to meet them.”

Thomas B. Brown, who represented California’s cities and counties, called the ruling “a ringing recognition” that local governments have the right to pass such laws.

The decision “recognizes that these kinds of laws are really land use laws,” Brown said.

But Tony Francois, who represented the building industry in the case,  called the decision “very disappointing.”

“The ruling allows government to impose financial penalties on providers of new housing – a penalty that can only deter efforts to ease the state’s housing shortage, and make it even harder and costlier for average families to afford a home in California,” said Francois, a senior staff attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative, property-rights group that represented the industry free of charge.

“Even more broadly,” he added, “ the decision exposes every homeowner and property owner in California to limitless potential fees and other property demands any time they ask for a permit of any kind, because the local government is allowed to use the permit process to raise money for any purpose whatsoever, whether it relates to the property owner or not.”

He said the building industry was considering its options, which could include an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Letter to the Tattler: Regina Chagolla

Received from Regina Chagolla:

Hello Emeryville Tattler,

First I would like to thank you for informing the public about the big
discussions that are being made in this small city.  In the Summer 2014 my
former director told me about a job opening at Anna Yates Elementary School.
 I got the job and months later my partner and I qualified for the City of
Emeryville's Below Market Rate Ownership Program.  I felt fortunate to live
where I work.  I finally got the chance to see students and the families in
the community.  Unfortunately, I recently made the decision to resign from
Emery Unified after an unique school year, to say the least.  I am returning
to my old job at the Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley.

Being a first year teacher with a new superintendent, two new principals
and a new vice principal wasn't the best way to start nor did it help.  I
have to thank the two sources that informed me enough to get through the
year.  I thank the Emery Teachers Association, sadly it had to being during
what many of the teachers refer as their worst year.  I also thank the
Emeryville Tattler for informing the new kid on the block.  I can't tell you
just how confused I was when I showed up on on my first day as a teacher to
find out there wasn't a principal on site.  Thanks to the Tattler I
understood just why my superintendent was my substitute principal.  The
Tattler was the first to share who my board members were and how they
voted.  Does Anna Yates stay or go?  Student programs cut or increase student
access to 21st century skills?

The Tattler inspired me to attend board meetings.  As a non-tenure teacher I
feared how I would be perceived but at the same time I am a resident.  So
although I am a teacher dropout, I plan to be acquainted with the operation
and the programs of the school from a resident perspective.

Thank you,
Regina Chagolla

Regina Chagolla is an Emeryville resident and a (soon to be former) science teacher at Emery's Anna Yates Elementary School.

Post Moratorium Debate, a Flawed 'Market Place' Development Moves Towards Approval

Mayor's Secret Plan For Better Housing Gets First Test

News Analysis
A huge residential apartment development proposal is just now rounding the corner in Emeryville, heading into the home stretch, headed for approval at City Hall.  It's the massive multi-phase 'Market Place' project on Shellmound Street with its 456 100% rental residential units, 70,000 square feet of retail and 1345 structured parking spaces.  Being all rental, this housing project is similar to most every other residential development project approved in Emeryville over the last many years.  It's also counter to what Emeryville residents say they want from new housing projects.

What's noteworthy about this project is that it's the first development proposal coming up for approval after a controversial residential building moratorium idea was proposed by the City Council but then rejected by Mayor Ruth Atkin and Councilwoman Nora Davis last February.  The three vote Council majority sought the moratorium to carve out time to strengthen the City's planning documents after so many years of flawed developments approved under the existing documents.  Lacking a four vote super-majority, the moratorium idea failed leaving only Ms Atkin's plan to fix Emeryville's weak planning documents.  However, Mayor Atkin has yet to reveal her plan to fix the problem, tantalizingly offering only "a moratorium is the wrong way to go about doing this".

Artist's Conception: Market Place Development
Featuring lots of deluxe White People.
For their part, developers aren't interested in waiting to hear about the Mayor's plan to stop flawed residential development; they're rapidly moving ahead in Emeryville.
One of the last three major residential developments left in Emeryville (the other two being  at the Sherwin Williams site and the 'Nady' site), the Market Place received approval for the first of its five parcels from the Planning Commission on May 28th.  The remaining four parcels are being presented rapid fire at subsequent meetings for the Planning Commission's approval.

A high density development, the Market Place project has the following characteristics identified by the public as being undesirable for future Emeryville residential development proposals:

  • 100% rental, no for sale units
  • No affordable units
  • Automobile dependent
  •  Not family friendly
  • No guarantee for locally serving non-formula chain retail
  • Exacerbates Emeryville's existing bad ratio of residents per acre of park/open space

The bullet points above are taken from goals highlighted by Emeryville's planning documents.  The Market Place project runs afoul of the following City Hall documents:

  • The General Plan
  • The Housing Element
  • The Family Friendly Design Guidelines

After a 25 year building spree has left only three sites to get housing right in Emeryville, residents know the kind of housing development found in the Market Place proposal is flawed.  A contrite Mayor Atkin assured everyone she agrees the residential development that's been built over the last many years has been flawed.  Regardless of the fact that as a five term Council member, she herself has voted for all that flawed development, Ms Atkin has assured Emeryville residents now she gets it and this time she will deliver a Market Place development in line with what the residents have said they want.  However time is running short for Ms Atkin's plan to take shape and it appears with the vote to approve the first Market Place parcel already having been cast, the Planning Commission is simply doing what it has always done with regard to project approvals.  At this point, Ms Atkin's plan will require the Planning Commission's first vote on the Market Place be overturned.

The Planning Commission will continue to approve the project on a parcel by parcel basis and the City Council will vote on the final development agreement for the Market Place project sometime probably in August.  Watch this space.

President Richard Nixon
In 1968 before the election, Mr Nixon indicated he 
had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam.  
Strangely, he refused to give details on the plan.  
The war continued on.

Mayor Ruth Atkin
She intimated she also has a secret plan:
 to bring better housing to Emeryville.
Like Nixon, she too has not given any

details for how it will be achieved.  
We hope for the resident's sake, it 
works out better than Nixon's plan.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Emeryville's Minimum Wage Hike Comes Not a Day Too Soon

From the Atlantic CityLab comes this informative piece on minimum wage and the lack of affordable rental housing.  Emeryville's problems are California's problems are the Nation's problems.  As the state of inequality rises, a declining middle class and increasing homelessness is the result.
Californians on average now need to earn $26.65 per hour to afford an average two bedroom apartment.  At the State minimum wage, Californians need to work 92 hours per week to afford a one bedroom apartment, a shocking and embarrassing number.  Now that Emeryville has raised the minimum wage to $12.25 per hour, the number of hours per week needed to afford a one bedroom apartment here is probably substantially lower, evidence we aren't adding to the problem at least.

 Read the rest of the story HERE

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Community Swimming Pool 2x Over Budget, Behind Schedule

School District Bungles Emeryville's Community Pool

Four Months Late
$700,000 Initial Price Balloons to Almost $2 Million

Emeryville's community swimming pool, a joint use facility located at the Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL) construction site and used by the Emery School District and the entire Emeryville community, is now projected to cost more than double original claims and will be finished well past its original time line schedule according to a representative for the City and School District.  John Baker of Swinerton Construction, the District's and the City's  paid representative overseer of Turner Construction, the ECCL general contractor, told Emeryville's elected officials at a City/Schools joint meeting Thursday night the pool will likely cost nearly $2 million, some $1.3 million more than budgeted, and will not be completed until November, more than four months late.

Mr Baker said the cost overruns can be attributed to Turner Construction not anticipating the need for a more 'robust' filtration system and other obsolete equipment in the existing pool mechanical room.

Remodeling and upgrading the community pool has been part of the ECCL construction project since its inception several years ago, but a shocked City Council and School Board learned Thursday this critical part of the project is not in the construction bid and was instead simply given a cost estimate and folded into the budget.  The ECCL construction bid is subject to hard fast numbers called a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) but the community pool was not included in that metric Mr Baker said.
The project has a set aside contingency fund to handle cost overruns and change orders but the overage at the community pool will virtually wipe out the fund, it was announced.  Presumably, further cost overruns will be covered by the taxpayers as extra costs for the project.

Upon hearing the part of the Center of 'Community' Life that's not protected by a bid guarantee will be more than double what was advertised, several elected officials at the meeting expressed dismay and incredulity, "how convenient" Councilwoman Jac Asher said.   School Board member Christian Patz vowed to get money back, regardless of the bad news, "I Googled 'olympic sized pool cost' and found it should cost around a million dollars, for a new pool" he told the Swinerton representative.

No Community in a Community Pool?
Perhaps the most shocking revelation of the evening was the explanation offered as to why the cost has more than doubled for the pool; Turner Construction, the general contractor and builder of the ECCL from the beginning, did not anticipate the community would use the community pool at the Center of Community Life.  Mr Baker indicated Turner thought the pool was for the School District's exclusive use, not the community's and that's the reason for a much more robust filtration system than had been planned when the costs were first calculated.
Further, apparently nobody at Turner ever bothered to check the existing pool room to confirm the state of the equipment there before the pool cost estimate was prepared.  That outmoded equipment will have to be upgraded for the hard use of a community pool Mr Baker said.  These two reasons were offered to the City Council and School Board as the primary reasons for the more than 100% cost overrun for the pool remodel, double the cost of a new similarly sized pool if Board member Patz is correct.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Carolyn Lehr Selected New Emeryville City Manager & Michael Guina Elevated to City Attorney

Emeryville has hired a new City Manager, Carolyn Lehr and a new City Attorney, Michael Guina, City Hall revealed today.  In a memo to the City staff, outgoing City Manager Sabrina Landreth made the announcement; the City Council has selected Sacramento native Carolyn Lehr to replace Ms Landreth and current Emeryville Assistant City Attorney Michael Guina will replace outgoing City Attorney Mike Biddle.
New Emeryville City Manager Carolyn Lehr
She arrives from Chowchilla CA where
she has served as interim City Administrator
since December of last year.

Ms Lehr graduated from San Jose State and obtained her MPA from Rutgers University. In addition to over 25 years in local government, she spent seven years in product administration in Silicon Valley and also served as a public relations director to a community hospital.  Carolyn is married with two sons.
She will begin her work in Emeryville on June 19th.

Michael Guina will serve as City Manager as a result of a tentative agreement beginning July 1st.  He was first hired at Emeryville as a Deputy City Attorney in 2003, later he worked for a private law firm, Oakland's Burke, Williams & Sorensen as a partner.  Mr Guina returned to Emeryville in 2013 where he has served as Assistant City Attorney in Mr Biddle's office.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Emeryville Unanimously Passes Progressive Minimum Wage Raise

Final Reading Makes Minimum Wage Ordinance the Law of the Land

 Tonight the Emeryville City Council voted unanimously to increase the minimum wage to match the neighboring City of Oakland's minimum wage of $12.25 for small businesses and $14.44 for large businesses over 55 employees.  The unanimous vote tonight matched every other vote taken by the Council making this a very uncontentious issue, at least as far as the people's representatives are concerned.  Businesses have battled the wage increase but tonight, none spoke out against the final reading of the new ordinance.  The ordinance also provides for paid sick days for Emeryville workers.  The law takes effect beginning July 2nd.
Dozens of Emeryville minimum wage workers,
including fast food workers joined with
union representatives tonight to
witness the historic vote.

Emeryville's Chief of Police Retires

After 40 years of service to the people of Emeryville, the popular Ken James officially retired tonight, accepting the recognition the City Council bestowed upon him in a resolution.  Mr James started out as a rookie cop in Emeryville and managed to retire 40 years later as Chief of Police.  During that time, he saw a Police Department unprecedented rise in popularity, now garnering more than 80% approval rating from those they serve.