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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Community Swimming Pool: Turner Construction Misses Deadline for Opening Day

Community Pool Fails Health Inspection
Opening Delayed Again

Emeryville's community swimming pool, plagued by missed deadlines and cost overruns will not open today as had been planned owing to a "failed health code inspection" and other delays by builder Turner Construction according to the City Manager.  Today's planned grand opening gala of the community pool has quietly now come and gone with nary a wet toe and without a peep to the community from the City or the School District as to an explanation other than individual emails sent to parents and community members that had signed up for lessons and general use.  The City now says it is hoped the pool will be ready by early June but they're not committing.

City Manager Carolyn Lehr told the Tattler the City will honor agreements as codified by policy at City Hall as far as refunding any fees paid by community members that cannot be used.  Additionally she volunteered that any new costs associated with the most recent delays will be born by "responsible parties" as a way of differentiating previous cost overruns that have been absorbed by Emeryville taxpayers up until now.
Emeryville's Community Pool
Taken before the remodel began
several years ago.

The community pool remodel has proven to be a first rate boondoggle for the City and the School District with costs more than 100% over budget and a timeline now more than a year behind schedule.  The pool, part of the community use part of the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL) was separated out of a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) agreement for ECCL between the School District, the City and Turner Construction, set up to prevent this sort of overrun.  The fact that the pool was not included in the GMP agreement has left taxpayers exposed to Turner cupidity as the builder seeks a way to recoup losses incurred on the rest of the project, critics have charged.  As protective of the public coffers as the GMP has been (insofar as it has), the agreement does not preclude Turner from clawing back their expenses by lowering quality on the rest of the ECCL project, a tactic they call 'Value Engineering', a tactic they have made liberal use of it should be noted.

Besides being more than a year late, Emeryville's community pool remodel has now cost more than $2 million; double what a pool the same size would cost built new, according to swimming pool contractors the Tattler contacted.  The Emery Unified School District has been the public agency responsible for overseeing the community pool with the City fulfilling its role as benefactor for the ill fated project.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

RULE Meeting

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Emeryville City Hall Staff Doesn't Understand Bike Boulevards

"Like a Squeezed Balloon..."

Emeryville's City Hall Staff Can't Imagine
Bike Boulevards

Analogy for Sisyphean Meaningless Work: 
Squeeze it here and the air goes over there;
you've accomplished nothing says Emeryville.
News Analysis/Opinion
Sometimes a single utterance gives away the whole game...
When a feature of a democratically vetted new polity is described by those entrusted with promulgating it as a flaw, you know there's a fundamental lack of understanding going on.
And that's what's happening behind the scenes at Emeryville City Hall right now.

Case in point: when recently interviewing the department heads management staff, the same curiously quoted axiom kept coming up: the idea of the futility of squeezing a balloon as a stand-in for meaningless work.  What these paid staffers are referring to is our Bike Plan and its provisions for building a network of bike boulevards in Emeryville.
Bike boulevards are corridors set aside primarily for bicycles and central to that endeavor is the requirement laid out in the Bike Plan to strictly limit the number of motor vehicles using these specially designated streets.  The Plan seeks to force cars from the bike boulevards over to regular streets for the safety of bicyclists.  This isn't a bug, it's a feature.
"If the idea is to atomize traffic in town, 
trying to keep an equal amount 
on all streets that the balloon 
analogy reinforces, then there's really 
no such thing as a bike boulevard". 

And yet our City staff can't seem to understand this basic principle, hence the oft repeated balloon analogy.  What they don't understand, they don't want.  At its core is a refusal to accept bike boulevards.  If the idea is to atomize traffic in town, trying to keep an equal amount on all streets that the balloon analogy reinforces, then there's really no such thing as a bike boulevard.  And viewing their actions trying to stop the Horton Street Bike Boulevard specifically over the last couple of years, it's safe to say we now know the philosophic underpinnings to their work: they can't even imagine a bike boulevard.

City Manager Carolyn Lehr
A fundamental lack of cognition:
"Like a squeezed balloon, the traffic
will just go elsewhere, you're
not solving anything" she said
of bike boulevards.
Who has spoken of squeezed balloons at City Hall?  The top brass; our City Manager Carolyn Lehr, our Director of Public Works Maurice Kaufman and also at least one underling.

We call on the Emeryville City staff to educate yourselves about our General Plan, our Bike Plan and Bike Boulevards.  The squeezed balloon image that you've been citing as reason for your dismissive demeanor is actually how it's supposed to work; we're supposed to squeeze traffic off the bike boulevards and onto regular streets.  Remember, it's bikes preferred, cars allowed on bike boulevards.  So stop trying to subvert that basic premise and get with the program.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Emery School District Announces 'The Drought is Over'!

The Drought is Over!

City Council Agrees:
Residents May Return to Their Former Profligate Ways
It's Been "Unusually Wet Weather"

Howdy Mr Raindrop!
We love ya but there's been
just too many of you for
Turner Construction to cope.  Please go
away and come again some other day.
The winter of 2015/2016 will go down as a season of "unusually wet weather" according to Emeryville City Hall (even though the National Weather Service and the California Water Resources Control Board says the opposite). Apparently it's been very rainy in Emeryville.  What else can Emeryville residents make of the request April 5th at the City Council chambers from the School District that City Hall grant a Noise Ordinance waiver based on that watery claim for Turner Construction, the builder of the  Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life (ECCL) to help finish the project?
So there's no confusion and for purposes of disclosure, here at the Tattler, we take the phrase "unusually wet weather" to mean 'more rain than average'.

Emery Schools Superintendent John Rubio made it clear; all the rain this season caught the School District by surprise and now the construction work on the ECCL is behind schedule.  Had it not been so rainy, the schedule would be fine.  The District and their contractor Turner Construction, never planned for the amount of rain we've been getting they say.  How could they?  It's been ever so rainy around here.
And how much rain is that?  Well if one wants to believe the neophytes at the National Weather Service, they'd have to conclude the amount for Emeryville is somewhere between Oakland and Berkeley which has had 94% and 68% of normal rainfall for the season respectively (Emeryville is not tracked specifically).  But what do weather "experts" know?  Turner Construction and the Emery Unified School District knows much more about the weather than the National Weather Service obviously.
Emery Schools Superintendent
John Rubio

Emeryville has had
"unusually wet weather".
Don't believe the Weather Service.
Trust me.

The Noise Ordinance is Unreasonable, It Doesn't Work if There's a Lot of Rain
The School District is way behind schedule delivering the ECCL...a year behind specifically, and they've offered many excuses over the last year for why they can't seem to bring this project in on time.  So now it's the rain.  They didn't plan on rain.  And that's why Emeryville residents must put up with loud Saturday work days from now until August.
The Emeryville City Council agreed.  They felt Turner's pain.  The claim of "unusually wet weather" went unexplained.  The Council apparently was supposed to simply take that at face value.  And so that's what they did.
Last fall Turner asked for a Noise Ordinance waiver without even giving a reason.  Just to increase their profit margins we imagine and again the Council felt Turner's pain.  Now at least they're giving a reason to grant the waiver, it's 'because you can't trust the National Weather Service and all their fancy rain gauges'.  Who are you going to believe after all, Turner Construction and the Emery Unified School District or wacky scientists (and your own lying eyes)?

The drought is over!  So go ahead Emeryville residents! Go ahead and rip out those drought tolerant plantings you put in back when the California Water Resources Control Board was to be believed and go back to Kentucky bluegrass (backyard BBQs will have to wait until the rainy season is finally over).  If you've got a running toilet, it can be ignored.  Luxuriate in 60 gallon showers!  And flush with abandon because apparently Emeryville's had it's own little dark rain cloud hovering over our town all year inundating us.

Below comes from the National Weather Service (if you can believe them):
  • City
  • Last 24 Hours
  • July 1st to   Date
  • Percent of Norm
  • July 1st to date last year
  • Percent of Norm
  • July 1st to date norm
  • Total Season Norm
  • Berkeley
  • 0.08
  • 17.76
  • 68
  • 13.67
  • 52
  • 26.24
  • 27.62
    • Downtown Oakland
    • 0.00
    • 21.82
    • 94
    • 17.17
    • 74
    • 23.26
    • 24.29
    • Source: Weather Underground

Emeryville Police Arrest Oakland Cop

Emeryville's Finest Arrest Oakland's (What?)

Emeryville police arrested an off duty Oakland cop, Matthew Joseph Santos, February 17th after he drew a gun on a house painter at the 40th Street Emeryville apartment complex where Mr Santos lives an Emeryville Police Department official told the Tattler.  The Oakland cop, a rookie on probation, was terminated by the Oakland Police Department and he has been charged with felony kidnapping and false imprisonment by the Alameda County District Attorney. Mr Santos is scheduled to enter a plea on May 23.
The house painter was part of a crew working at the Bridgecourt Apartments 1331 40th Street, waterproofing the buildings, the second time in six years, after residents complained of black mold due to persistent leaks.  Mr Santos forced the painter to leave the scene at gunpoint after he returned home and saw his front door being painted.  A private security guard was witness to the event.

The Bay Area News Group has the story HERE.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

City Council Moves Against Horton Street Bike Boulevard

Council Reversal:
No 'Chokers' for Horton Street 

'Level Four' Traffic Calming Snatched From Consideration,
Horton Street Pushed Back to Level Three

Mayor, Vice Mayor Break Explicit Campaign Promises

Emeryville will not implement a key provision of its $200,000 Bike Plan the City Council revealed April 5th when they voted to negate a contentious traffic calming metric on Horton Street mandated by the Plan, an action requested by City staff, developers and the business community repeatedly over the years.  The provision, the emplacement of certain specific traffic calming devises called chokers on the street, was unanimously approved in 2012 when the Council certified Emeryville's award winning Bike Plan and so the April 5th decision represents a reversal for the City.
 With its signs, stencils and other traffic mitigating measures in place, Horton Street as of now is at traffic calming 'level three' according to the Bike Plan but with the latest reversal, the Council now unanimously disregards the Plan's long passed schedule 'Level Four' traffic calming for the street and instead will implement a different version of a Level Three calming device, namely speed bumps.  Mayor Dianne Martinez and Vice Mayor Scott Donahue, who ran as a slate, broke specific campaign promises by their votes on April 5th.

At issue are so called 'chokers', a pinching down of the street to one lane in a specific area designated as the Level Four traffic calming treatment intended to drive traffic volumes down to less than 3000 vehicle trips per day.  Bike boulevards are defined as "bikes preferred, cars allowed" streets and Horton Street is the first of Emeryville's network of official bike boulevards that has run into bike safety problems excess traffic volumes brings.
Dianne Martinez & Scott Donahue
Broken promises for Horton Street.
(Photo from their campaign flyer)
Now they think Level Four traffic calming
is too much.
Bike safety must continue to wait
for Emeryville.
Horton has long been a source of contention; developers and business interests wishing to place more cars on the street with the only push back for bicyclists being Emeryville's long ignored Bike Plan.  The street could serve as a safe north south route for bikers through the town but Horton has been plagued by huge numbers of vehicles that only gets worse every year as traffic counts show.  The City responded by writing the 2012 Bike Plan, after spending two years of public meetings and $200,000 on it. Up until now the Plan has withered, the City Council refusing to implement it.  That was supposed to change on April 5th but the Mayor and Vice Mayor changed their minds.

Even as the City Council ignores the Plan, as individual candidates, every four years they universally have told voters they like bicycling and they will implement our Bike Plan.  Mayor Martinez and Vice Mayor Donahue joined their colleagues and voted NO to chokers for Horton Street on April 5th but in 2014 when they were running for Council they told voters they would support the Plan and install chokers.
On October 7th of that year, candidate Scott Donahue told Emeryville citizens:
"I strongly support Emeryville's Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan overall, including maintaining Horton Street as a bike boulevard.  I helped craft the plan, having spent more than 10 years on the City's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.  It is a balanced plan and addresses the needs of all stakeholders."   -Scott Donahue,  2014

Councilman Donahue refused to comment to the Tattler about the discrepancy between what he told voters he would do versus the vote he took on April 5th.
Mayor Martinez was even more explicit in the run up to her election, telling voters on October 9th:
"I support Emeryville’s Bike/Ped Plan and believe that Horton Street should remain a Bicycle Boulevard as defined by that plan, and that we should continue to strive for under 3,000 vehicle trips per day on this street."   -Dianne Martinez,  2014
Candidate Martinez elucidated the need for Level Four traffic calming for Horton Street, taking a more cautious approach than moving directly to Level Five traffic calming what Emeryville's Bike Committee recommended at the time. She directly said if elected she would vote for Level Four traffic calming for Horton Street telling voters:
"In light of the recent community meetings at city hall, I’m personally in favor of Level 4 traffic calming measures, without going straight to the experimental traffic diverters (part of a 'Level 5' strategy) recommended by the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC). "   -Dianne Martinez,  2014

Emeryville's city staff has long been against Level Four or Level Five traffic calming for Horton Street as regular Tattler readers know.  City Manager Carolyn Lehr recently told the Tattler she's against chokers completely, calling them "too extreme."  Ms Lehr moved against the Bicycle Committee and against the Bike Plan's settled bicycle policy by removing Level Four traffic calming from consideration for Horton Street.  Ms Lehr's plan to remove chokers was revealed at a February 1st community meeting to discuss the temporary traffic calming measures, the public not given an option to consider them and weigh in.  Instead, the community was given several Level Three options to consider for the street against the wishes of the Bike Committee.
For her part, Mayor Martinez told the Tattler recently she does not approve of what Ms Lehr and the staff did by taking Level Four traffic calming off the table for consideration.  The Mayor defended her vote against Level Four traffic calming for Horton Street, hinting perhaps someday the Bike Plan could still be implemented, regardless of her vote on April 5th:
"I stand by my original answer from my campaign. I support Level 4 traffic calming short of (Level 5) diverters.  Chokers were not offered to the BPAC as part of the experimental Level 4 calming [at the February 1st community meeting], and that's unfortunate that they weren't reviewed by the public as a potential tool for traffic calming.  However, I'm not willing to wait another minute to implement much-needed measures on Horton.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and there is always room to review the effects of the proposed plan and add more calming measures in the future."  -Dianne Martinez,  2016
Vice Mayor Donahue was adamant about following the Bike Plan and installing chokers for Horton Street after the February 1st community meeting (but before his April 5th vote).  Upset at the City Manager and the staff for not including discussion of chokers at the community meeting, he told the Tattler in March:
"I'm disappointed chokers were not presented as an option to be studied at the [February 1st] community meeting but I will insist that they be studied and will put it on the next [Council] agenda if staff will not do it".   -Scott Donahue, 2016
The Councilman refused comment to the Tattler about why he changed his mind.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Non-Family Friendly Housing Project in 'Zone of Stability' Nears Completion

Ocean Avenue Housing Project: End Run Around General Plan

News Analysis
As workers put the finishing touches at north Emeryville's newest apartment complex, 'Ocean Lofts', the units stand ready to receive their new occupants and the neighbors who railed against the project years ago can start to see their worst visions become realized and City Hall's stated housing goals subverted.  The project, at 1258 Ocean Avenue involved a small scale developer/builder tearing down a historic existing detached single family house built in 1913 to make way for much denser housing at odds with Emeryville's stated goals of making the town more family friendly and saving the east side housing from the wreaking ball as a General Plan designated 'zone of stability'.

Ocean Lofts street elevation.  Its back is turned to the
neighborhood. Oceans of stucco, sheer featureless facade
rises up and crowds the sidewalk, no 'eyes on the street' here.
The neighbors railed against the project approved in 2007 (the City granted an extension in 2009) quoting the General Plan's recommendation that single family detached housing in the Triangle neighborhood and the north side be protected against demolition but they were defeated by developer tactics some described as cynical.  The developer bought the existing house and requested a tear down and a new 4-plex building from City Hall regardless of the General Plan zone of stability prohibition but neighbors united against it.  Undaunted, the developer withdrew and allowed the house to be taken over by squatters who proceeded to strip out architectural details and damage the interior.  The roof was not repaired and rotted over several seasons.  Finally, the City Council, ignoring cries of foul from neighbors, relented to the tear down citing the damaged and rotted nature of the house.

The rarely-to-be-used front door (drive in, drive out garage
on the side). The vast featureless plane makes the laundry vent
to the left of the front door scream. In the '70's this kind of
architecture was called 'brutalism'.  A historic and family
friendly house in the 'zone of stability' was torn down for this.
And so the North Emeryville residential zone of stability gets Ocean Lofts with its interior courtyard and its back turned to the street and the neighbors.  The lofts crowd the former site of the single family house and so the developer was granted a variance from the Zoning Ordinance requiring a minimum of 15 feet of back yard, allowing the building to push up against the property line to four feet.  The City completed the deal by sweetening the pot, granting the developer private use of a Peabody Lane/Emeryville Greenway connection in the back of the project, forever shutting the public out of a critical bike/pedestrian connection in this city the General Plan identifies as "a connected place".

The big corporate developers in Emeryville haven't needed to use these 'hold, defer repair and let rot' tactics, relying instead on a compliant City Council who commonly engage in large General Plan amendments to accommodate the large development proposals.  1258 Ocean shows how a small scale developer, lacking the gravitas and therefore the capacity to garner City Hall largess like the big time developers, can through clever, some might say cynical scheming, still deliver the goods, maximize his profits and bypass our General Plan.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Protestors Shut Down Emeryville City Council Meeting

The Anti-Police Terror Project shut down the Emeryville City Council meeting tonight, insisting the police stop carrying AR-15 assault rifles in the wake of last year's shooting of Yuvette Henderson by Emeryville police.  About 100 protestors arrived at the beginning of the meeting and effectively shut it down, forcing Mayor Dianne Martinez to order police to clear the room.  The protestors left after about 30 minutes vowing to return at a later date.  The City Council reconvened the meeting after the room was cleared.  Police report one arrest was made behind City Hall after they said they saw a protestor with a tear gas canister.

The Anti-Police Terror Project shuts down the Emeryville 
City Council meeting.  Police clear the room.

They provided some live music performed in the council 
chambers foyer.

One arrest was made for possession of "tear gas" according to 
the police.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

We Beat de Blasio...But Not For Long: NYC Raises Minimum Wage to $15

Right Wing (in Emeryville & Elsewhere) Faces Rising Tide of Concern Over Wealth Inequality

E'Ville Eye/Businesses Argument Fails

News Analysis/Opinion
minimum wage law:
She beat...
In 2016, Emeryville's status as highest in the nation minimum wage is being challenged from all sides; after Califonia Governor Jerry Brown announced Monday the entire state will henceforth be a $15 per hour minimum wage zone come 2022, now New York, not to be outdone, announced Thursday is also raising its minimum wage in New York City to $15 but they're instituting theirs in 2018, same as Emeryville.  Additionally, NYC will provide for more guaranteed paid sick days than Emeryville making for a more progressive minimum wage law than Emeryville all in all.
And so the rising tide of rising minimum wages all around us is seen as a boon for wealth equality and a blow to the intransigence of the right wing on its core principle of market piety.

After years of stagnation on the minimum wage nation-wide, Republicans controlling the debate, municipalities and now an entire state are fairly tripping over themselves to raise their lowest wage to $15.  The dramatic turn around represents a rise in general anxiety that's been precipitated by a intractable increase in wealth inequality over the last few decades but really picking up in intensity after the Great Recession.
The trend, as would be expected has been vigorously contested by the right wing around the nation and specifically here in Emeryville.

...him (but only temporarily).

Right Wing Looses Key Arguing Point
The right wing in Emeryville is losing its prime, albeit never cogent arguing point; the simple uniqueness of our Minimum Wage Ordinance serving as a stand in for failure itself.  Our (soon to be former) highest minimum wage in the nation status has been used by its opponents as a straw man argument; something sold as unreasonable and outrageous on its face.  However the new paradigm of $15 minimum wage arising everywhere around us will serve to discredit that argument leaving only the tactic much used by Emeryville's right wing blog, the E'Ville Eye; that being the chalking up each business failure as somehow proof of the destructive effect of raising the minimum wage.  The fact that the minimum wage of every other city around Emeryville will now also be $15 tends to dilute that arguing tactic but also an endless repetition of reporting on new businesses opening as that blog likes to do, will subvert its own ideological goals of keeping the the minimum wage low.  People will find it difficult to see new businesses opening as proof Emeryville's high minimum wage is a failure.

And we all beat this guy
(allied as their ideas are with
the Republican Party).
Emeryville business closings, now reported wall-to-wall and credited with the MWO at the E'Ville Eye, of course leaves out the possibility that businesses come and go in any market, irrespective of any minimum wage law.  As common to zealots everywhere, the E'ville Eye presents a tautology: business failures reported are held up as a straw man proof of its ideological bound worldview but also in the hermetically sealed world at that opinion blog, each new business opening happens in spite of the MWO.  Meanwhile the inconvenient truth as reported on the six month anniversary of the MWO by the Tattler is that business openings are up when compared to the era before the MWO while business closures are actually way down.

As the $15 minimum wage becomes the norm around the country, those tilting at windmills, positing it must be rolled back will be relegated to the status of Birthers and Flat Earthers.