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Monday, May 30, 2016

Both the City & the Bay Street Mall Claims Ownership of Emeryville Street

Showdown With City Looms as Bay Street Mall Claims Ownership of Street

Mall Reversal: Citizens Ok'ed to Park on 'Their' Street 
(For Now)

Who owns Bay Street?  The answer to that straight forward question depends on whom you ask.  If you ask the City of Emeryville, they'll say the people own the street but if you ask the owners of the Bay Street Mall, they'll tell you it's private property; they own it.
As a result of a story the Tattler reported last Monday regarding the Bay Street Mall issuing tickets to overnight parked cars on Bay Street, the corporation that owns the mall has taken down signs disallowing non-shoppers from using the street but is asserting this has been done only as a act of good will and that they are under no legal obligation to allow non-shoppers to park on the street because the corporation owns the street.
In a stunningly bold May 24th letter to Emeryville's City Attorney, the Bay Street Mall is asserting since they are "paying property taxes for the ownership of the streets", they own Bay Street, not the City of Emeryville, a claim refuted by City Attorney Michael Guina.  The mall is also asserting their right to disallow parking after 10 PM, the cut off time for metered parking, a direct conflict with what Mr Guina says.

Jen Nettles
Manager Bay Street Mall
The conflict of ownership claims promises a showdown; mall manager Jen Nettles maintaining they will continue to disallow cars from parking after 10 PM while the City of Emeryville guarantees drivers the right to park there overnight.  The conflict also has ramifications that will echo to the incipient Marketplace development on Shellmound Street with its similar arrangement of public streets and private sidewalks hammered out between that developer and City Hall last year.

The divergent assertions between the private corporation and the City have come as a result of an unusual agreement made in 2000 as the mall broke ground.  The mall requested and was granted ownership of the sidewalks along Bay Street while the City retained ownership of the street itself, according to the City Attorney.  Madison Marquette Corporation, the owner of the mall at the time had interest in assuring its tenants that protests or other civil actions would not be possible as a result of the corporate ownership of the sidewalks.  This arrangement has proved valuable to the mall owing to the high level of national chain stores located there, with their often dubious labor and environmental practices.

The letter to the City Attorney included
an Alameda County Tax Assessment map as
proof of corporate ownership of the street.
Ms Nettles refutes claims the mall security officers are issuing 'notices to pay' for after hours parked cars on Bay Street, stating instead only warnings are being issued.  The Tattler reported Monday that tickets are being issued (by either security officers and/or Emeryville police) based on interviews with Tattler informants and ticket writing security officers themselves.
Ms Nettles agreed to remove signs stating parking on Bay Street was for "customers only" regardless of her claim of property rights inherent with the corporate street ownership only as a good neighbor gesture to the City.  The signs were taken down on Tuesday.

In the meanwhile a line is being drawn in the sand; the "Bay Street [Mall] is the present title owner of record for the property and the street" Ms Nettles informed the City in her May 24th letter, a contradiction of what has been directly asserted since 2000 by former City Manager Pat O'Keefe, former Chief of Police Ken James, former City Attorney Michael Biddle and current Attorney Michael Guina.  However, regardless of the numerous claims of City ownership of the street and any documents the City might have to satisfy such claims, a legal construct known as adverse possession could grant the Bay Street Mall ownership of the street by sheer dint of its (uncontested) possession over time.

The Tattler will closely follow this inauspicious evolving story.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dog Park Feature: Push Out Homeless People

Do Your Techie Residents Have a Problem With Homeless People?  

Solution: Clear the Homeless Out!

These guys are on their way up in Emeryville
Homeless people are a problem that should be dealt with by clearing them away.  So says the Emeryville City Council as they now prepare to use Emeryville taxpayer money to build a dog park entirely in Oakland who's primary function will be to clear out persistent homeless encampments near the Emeryville border under the 40th Street bridge, the site of the future dog park.  These encamped homeless people have been venturing into Emeryville committing crimes and spreading disease plus they smell bad says E'Ville Eye blog editor Rob Arias.  He testified to the Public Safety Committee recently that he's fearful about walking in his own neighborhood and he implored the Emeryville police to clear out the homeless encampments in West Oakland since Oakland cops are not responsive.

Dogs In, Poor People Out
...these guys are on their way down
Mr Arias used his blog to rally his readers to descend on the City Council chambers May 17th  to insist the City clear out the homeless people by putting building the dog park at the top of the list of priorities for the Five Year Capital Improvement program for the City.  This is the same list that provides funds for parks, children, seniors, pedestrian/bike bridges over railroad tracks and the like.  No mention was made by Mr Arias or his followers or the City Council facing the crowd and feeling their pain that another dog park is going in only one block away at the Sherwin Williams site when the developer for that project gets the go ahead (after the election in November).

Two Side by Side Dog Parks Needed
...and these guys are out...all the way out.
Why didn't anyone mention the Sherwin Williams dog park at the capital improvements discussion on the 17th?  Because techies and homeless people don't mix and the dog park under the bridge isn't really meant to serve as a dog's meant to be a buffer between homeless people in West Oakland and the techies populating the Park Avenue neighborhood in Emeryville. As more and more techies move into Emeryville thanks to the City Council building bock after block of drive-in drive-out market rate (men's) dormitories to house them, clearing out homeless people is becoming a pattern and practice of our progressive City Council majority.

In With the New
Meet Emeryville's newest resident.
We remember who's pain the Council felt when calls were made to deny a toehold to these undesirable types at the Center of 'Community' Life bike/pedestrian path and the EBI pedestrian path and the Joseph Emery Park.  The City Council even amended the General Plan to stop bike/ped connectivity in order to deny homeless people places to congregate when they deleted our bike/ped paths and moved to replace an existing park that the E'Ville Eye warned the homeless had "targeted", into a skate park.  The Council noted the skate park would serve a dual function of providing a space for skateboarders and clearing out homeless people...a twofer.
To her credit, Councilwoman Jac Asher told her colleagues that the City bears a responsibility to providing for people living with homelessness and that she expects them (her colleagues) to agree to part with some cash (for unspecified uses) to help with the problem when the budget comes under discussion later in the year.  We'll have to wait to see how that turns out.

Lots of Dogs
Emeryville's City Council really likes dogs.  They just finished building a ersatz public dog park at the Parc on Powell project, a whole city block of rental apartments that go for $3000 per month for a one bedroom unit.  Now they're going to build two dog parks right next to each other in the Park Ave area, a neighborhood that's going to absorb almost 1000 market rate all rental techie units associated with the Sherwin Williams project.  That's a lot of dogs.

At least they can't be accused of not listening to their constituents.

And who's generally not included among their constituents?  Poor people and families.  These are the two groups that are being edged out of our town, all the overheated hyperbolic rhetoric from the City Council notwithstanding.  Over the last ten years, Emeryville has grown exponentially but even with all that growth, families have actually been reduced in numbers.  Emeryville's housing policy (in practice it's more of a lack of a policy) has resulted in a hemorrhaging of children, so much so that we're now the city with the fewest  children in the whole East Bay.  And poor people?  They've been ignored and pushed out as the Council lets developers build residential projects to suit their stockholder's profit needs.  The progressive Council majority so far has only managed to keep affordability from decreasing (they kept the status quo) at one project, in the aggregate, we're keeping on our headlong rush to provide safe haven for residential projects filled with dog loving single techies (girlfriends or wives welcome when applicable).

Two dog parks a block away from each other...nice! 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bay Street Mall Illegally Issuing Parking Tickets Again

Public Parking Spaces Too Tempting:
Bay Street Mall Again Attempts to Seize 
Public Property

After being sanctioned in 2014 by the City of Emeryville for illegally issuing parking tickets to the general public for meter violations at parking meters on their property and also for charging vendors for use of City owned property, the owners of the Bay Street Mall, are illegally ticketing parked cars again, this time on publicly owned Bay Street the Tattler has learned.  Regardless that overnight parking is allowed on Emeryville's streets, vehicles parked between the hours of 10 PM and 8 AM, designated as non-metered parking times on Bay Street will receive warnings or actual tickets according to Bay Street Mall security officers.

Creeping Private Encroachment
on the Commons
We may not park on our own street
unless we're shopping
according to signs posted 
Bay Street.
The new owners of the mall, '5616 Bay Street Mall Investors LLC', a private real estate corporation bought the mall in 2014 from the previous owner, Washington DC based Madison Marquette Corporation.

An Emeryville police spokesperson was unsure whether the Emeryville Police Department receives a portion of these ill gotten proceeds but indicated any tickets issued for cars parked on Bay Street during those hours are not proper and that any subsequent fines incurred by the public should not be paid.  The Police Department will conduct an investigation into the bogus parking ticket allegations the spokesperson said.
Bay Street has an unusual condition as a result of a negotiation between the City and Bay Street Mall Investors wherein the corporation owns the sidewalks but the City owns the street, a condition that has proved tempting to the mall owner to encroach on the City's easement, the new parking tickets for overnight parking being just the latest iteration.  In another bold move, signs have been put up by the mall owner along Bay Street warning the motoring public that the parking spaces on the street are for "customers only"; a patent falsehood.

For cars parked during metered times that run out the meter, ticket proceeds are shared between Bay Street Mall Investors and the Emeryville Police Department as per an approved agreement made between City Hall and the mall owner.

Bay Street security officers refused to speculate how many tickets and warnings they have issued to (legally) parked cars on the street and the management at the Bay Street Mall didn't return calls for this story.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Typical Saturday Afternoon at ECAP

Here's what it looks like when the government throws itself over entirely to the interests of the top 1% at the expense of everyone else, when both political parties give up on taking care of the interests of average Americans.  We see it every day in Emeryville on San Pablo Avenue as hungry people wait in line for food assistance from the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program (ECAP).  It only gets worse, regardless which political party is in control.
Thanks to the volunteers at ECAP for stepping up to alleviate hunger in our community.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

'Safe Routes to School'? Maybe, But Not After the 'Flashing Beacon' Lightbulbs Burn Out

Q: How Many Public Works Employees Does it Take to Screw In a Light Bulb?

A: More Than 13

Emeryville City Hall tells us they care about children.  But how much do they really care?  They care enough to apply for a $500,000 grant to install crosswalk flashing warning lights as part of a "Safe Routes to School" federal program.  Unfortunately, they don't care enough to change the lightbulbs when they burn out.  Changing lightbulbs is not a task the 13 employees at Emeryville's Public Works Department is adroit enough to handle.
Safe Routes to Schools?
43rd Street at San Pablo Avenue-
The existing in-pavement flashers are
being removed but the flashing sign
beacons will remain.
Safe....until the light bulbs
burn out.

After securing the grant money, the City is directing the work now starting on three intersections along San Pablo Avenue at 43rd, 45th and 47th Streets in anticipation of the eventual completion of the Center of 'Community' Life at 47th and San Pablo.  These are the crossings children will be using to get to school and button activated flashing beacon signs are the central part of the scope of work.

The problem is we've seen this story before and it doesn't end well...
Simple maintenance and follow through is not big at the Public Works Department.  Consider the crosswalk at 43rd Street and San Pablo.  Ten years ago, anguished parents appealed to the City to help children safely cross that busy street near Anna Yates Elementary School.  The City responded with a $20,000 program to install button activated flashing beacons on signs and in asphalt pavement embedded lights at that intersection; a vast improvement.
(On a side note, now, only the flashing beacon signs will remain at the 43rd Street crossing; the pavement embedded beacons are being removed as part of the new Safe Routes to Schools program, leaving the claims of improved safety in question, at least for that intersection.)
The last flashing beacon light bulb finally burned out a couple of years ago at the San Pablo Avenue/43rd Street crosswalk leaving parents and citizens attempting the traverse at the mercy of busy California State Route 123 (aka San Pablo Avenue) drivers.  Complaints to the Public Works Department over the years about burned out lightbulbs have fallen on deaf ears, all the hyperbolic talk of child welfare and safe routes to schools notwithstanding.

We're not sure why the Emery Unified School District was so insistent to place our new elementary school directly on the busiest street in Emeryville; San Pablo Avenue with its 1600 vehicles per hour speeding through these intersections, but now we're stuck with it.  Presumably, with the new flashing beacons provided by the federal government, children will be able to safely cross (so says the School District) until the light bulbs start burning out.
Unfortunately again, the safety of our children is placed in the hands of the can't-be-bothered-to-change-lightbulbs Public Works Department and its Director Maurice Kaufman.  Too bad we can't get the feds to commit to changing the bulbs...then maybe we really would have safe routes to schools.  All these new lightbulbs being installed is going to be too much for Maurice Kaufman to handle.

How many Public Works employees does it take to screw in a light bulb?  We wish it were merely a bad joke.  The actual truthful answer to that question; more than 13, isn't funny.
Vexing for the likes of Emeryville
Now what do we do?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The City of Emeryville is Anti-Bike

The City Staff Thinks Bikes Are OK*
*as long as they don't inconvenience vehicles

 Mayor, Vice Mayor 
Have a Staff Infection

Emeryville Mayor Martinez
Agrees with the staff:
Now is not the time
to implement the Bike Plan.
She's been infected.
The people of Emeryville want a bike boulevard on Horton Street.  How do we know that?  Well, for one, because it's specified in our city's General Plan and our GP is the most democratically vetted GP of any in the Bay Area.  Our GP even won an award for the record high levels of support from the residents.  Further and more compellingly we know the people of Emeryville want a bike boulevard on Horton Street because that's what they directly voted for in November of 2014 when they cast their votes for Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue both of whom were definitive at the time: a vote for them is a vote for the Horton Street Bike Boulevard they assured us.
The people like the idea of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard but the staff at City Hall sure doesn't.  In fact they've worked for years trying to make sure the traffic calming provisions spelled out in our Bike Plan don't come to pass on Horton (or any other street in Emeryville designated as a bike boulevard).

Vice Mayor Donahue
Agrees with the Mayor.
He's also infected.
The citizens voted for Dianne and Scott, finally getting a City Council majority that appeared to support the resident's desires for a bike boulevard on Horton Street....that's good.  But we were saddened when the two voted down the Bike Plan provision for traffic calming at the now infamous April 5th City Council meeting vote covered by the Tattler.  What's up with that?  They were very clear before the election they would vote for Level Four traffic calming as the Bike Plan delineates and then they reversed themselves and supported the staff who says NO to Level Four calming claimed to be something too restrictive against car traffic.

Staff Infection
The Mayor Dianne Martinez and the Vice Mayor Scott Donahue have been infected by virulent anti-bike sentiment festering at City Hall; they have a staff infection.  After listening to the residents before the election, now they're listening to the staff.  Whereas before they thought there should be a process and we should follow the General Plan's remedy for too much car traffic on bike boulevards, now they think like how the staff thinks; the General Plan is too radical, especially as it pertains to bike boulevards.  Dianne and Scott have joined a long procession of City Council colleagues who have been similarly infected: OK applying stencils to the streets or putting up purple bike boulevard signs but once drivers begin to become inconvenienced, well that's "too extreme" as the City Manager likes to put it.

The lengths the staff is willing to go to stop the Bike Plan's traffic calming is pretty exceptional.
To wit:
The Staff
Their effect is corrosive and infectious on the
body politic if the Council doesn't inoculate
themselves with the disinfectant of 

independence and allegiance to the people.
What's also exceptional is the fact that our two newest Council members are so unexceptional; so far no Council members have shown a willingness to go against the staff on bike boulevards.  But what sets the Mayor and Vice Mayor apart is the iron clad promise they made to voters they would implement Level Four traffic calming on Horton Street if elected.  Other Council members have made vague references over the years to their support of the Bike Plan and about how much they like bicycling and other innocuous stuff.  Dianne and Scott bumped it up a notch with a specific promise.

We're still not sure why this overt bait and switch has happened (other than another outbreak of staff infection).  Vice Mayor Donahue has so far refused to comment.  Mayor Martinez has told the Tattler that while she agrees the staff has a jones against bike boulevard traffic calming that she doesn't share, she's too weak to stop them (presumably) and that Level Three traffic calming is the best we can do, "a bird in the hand..." and so on she said.

After a year and a half with these two progressives on our City Council, we've been worried that the same old pattern would repeat itself.  The fact that there's been no shake up at City Hall has proved to be a harbinger of the status quo being unperturbed by the new condition of a progressive Council majority.  One would expect a radical new direction selected by the voters to be reflected in a new culture at City Hall but these two decided to keep the same crew on.  The same department heads selected by the long ensconced pro-developer Nora Davis council majority have been left be in their corner offices, their power undiminished.  The resultant push back against Level Four traffic calming for Horton Street is what one would expect in such a scenario.

At least two more bike boulevards, 45th Street and 53rd Street, are now over their traffic thresholds and are over due for traffic calming as mandated by the Bike Plan.  After the progressives on the council joined their conservative colleagues in opposing the implementation of Horton Street traffic calming, we expect they'll do likewise for the other bike boulevards.  Barring some major change, we can't see the Bike Plan mandated traffic calming (over level three) being implemented for any street.

Emeryville; the more things change the more they stay the same.  Where's our Jonas Salk?  We're pretty discouraged here.