Search The Tattler

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

City Council Sherwin Williams Vote: Emeryville is Better Without Parks

Council Says Emeryville Urgently Needs More Market Rate Housing,

Parks; Not So Much

News Analysis/Opinion

The Emeryville City Council assures us a new paradigm is ready to blossom at City Hall; a new way of thinking that will finally bring glorious parks to the people.  But first we have to develop the Sherwin Williams site.  And so they voted 5-0 NO to park/open space and YES to more market rate housing, enough housing for 1200 new resident renters.

Now that the City Council has approved more housing at the Sherwin Williams site on Tuesday night and rejected the idea that we should build one large park there and after all the sanctimonious proclamations self-releasing them from their responsibility in this case to fulfill their campaign promises to build the parks we need have been strenuously asserted, we have to ask; where and when is Emeryville going to finally build the parks the people want?  It’s a legitimate question and Emeryville residents have a right to know the answer.  The City Council refuses to say so the Tattler will provide the answer herein so residents can stop waiting.
It's not like we have NO parks.
Bay Street mall shows it's appreciation for green.
How about a green roof?  There must be an acre
of luxurious grass up there alone.  

Ever had a picnic up there?

The Sherwin Williams developer will provide a little two acre park associated with the housing project but with more than 1000 people moving into the apartments there, the resultant ratio, more than 500 residents per acre, brings down Emeryville’s park average.  Emeryville goes backwards as far as parks go with this project. 
So the Sherwin Williams site wasn’t the place we were told to deliver the park land the people want.  In an attempt to mollify those who would ask the question, the City Council was quick to remind everyone they share their love of parks and we should trust them they’re going to deliver the parks.  Just not here and not now.

So to the City Council: Just when are we going to see this new park building culture blossom at City Hall?  And where will the new parks be built?
And to the residents: Since they won’t level with us on this, we’re going to have to figure it out on our own.

Parks: How and Where?
Let’s assume we believe the Council’s steadfast yet protean assurances they’ll begin to obey our General Plan’s mandate for 26 acres of new parks within 12 years.  How will it happen?  Developers won't build the parks we need, we know that.  We have a 35 year history of an ever decreasing ratio of park-to-residents average to prove that.  Similarly, our anemic park fees charged to developers won't build the parks we need.  The proof is in that pudding as well- we don’t have enough money to even build one small park this way.  
No, eminent domain is in our future, land seized by eminent domain and paid for with sales from a general obligation municipal bond, however the only land parcels left of any reasonable size in Emeryville already have buildings and businesses on them and after we lost (rejected) the 8 acre golden opportunity provided by the Sherwin Williams site, eminent domain seizure is the only way moving forward.  We know we’re not going to evict people from their homes in order to build parks.  So the only option open to us now is to seize private property and pay fair market value to the owner, pay to relocate the businesses on it, pay to tear down the buildings, pay to clean up the property and then build the park.  That’s what we did to build Doyle/Hollis Park.  That’s what’s going to have to be repeated many times over to get the parks we need.  The business community of course won’t like this idea but we’ll have to disregard their concerns (another new paradigm for our town).
Here's a park for the people.
It's on the second floor of a Wareham Development
project built a few years ago.
It's on private property but it's open to the
public as part of a deal negotiated by the City
(always looking out after our needs, right?).
Ever thrown a frisbee in this park?

Here's The Rub
But this unavoidable eventuality, Emeryville’s future park building schema (by use of eminent domain) begs the obvious question: why not build more housing on the land we clear?  As soon as the land is cleared, developers will want to build more apartment complexes on it and then what’s to stop the City of Emeryville agreeing with the maxim that we need to build more housing to ameliorate the terrible condition of unaffordable housing in our town?  After what we witnessed at Sherwin Williams, we know the City Council can be counted on to make that argument.  Once again it will inevitably rise to the level of a near emergency.  Of course it needs not be said that this is exactly where we find ourselves right now with the Sherwin Williams site... and we see how that turned out (parks be damned).  
So what mechanism would intervene, what could cause new thinking to rise up to cause the Emeryville City Council to suddenly realize our General Plan has value and enable them to say NO to a developer seeking profit in our town?  We have not ever seen that and the new Council members have shown us they aren’t interested in this kind of change.  So what would cause this to happen and, identifying the cause, why didn’t it work at the fallow Sherwin Williams site, a much cheaper site on which to build a park?

News Flash: Emeryville You Won't Get the Parks You Want
After the Sherwin Williams decision, we're left asking why indeed.  The answer to that of course is there is no answer.  There is no city planning that happens in Emeryville.  City planning would mean saying NO to a profit seeking developer with plans of his own.  There is no mechanism to build parks moving forward here, real or imagined.  So don't you believe it when you hear some shit talking Council member or Council member wanna be unload.  There is only the developer’s pain and the City of Emeryville’s bottomless well of empathy, their endless capacity to feel that pain.  Saying Emeryville will get parks like other towns have is like saying America is post racial; it’s what some of us would like to imagine us to be.  We cry foul....Wake up America, you are racist to the core.  Wake up Emeryville.  


  1. A Good "win win" Decision!

    1. A win-win....yes. A win for Lennar's Board of Directors and also a win for Lennar stockholders.

  2. Since it looks like a long wait before more park space opens up, let's think creatively. To get the ball rolling, here's an idea that might go nowhere, except for maybe leading to better ideas.

    Why not purchase air rights over the railroad tracks and convert the area into a park? Or, to make it affordable, a combination of living units and a park?

    While we wait for more park space, I wish our city would plant more trees, using funds from the park maintenance budget we would have if we had the parks everyone seems to want. More trees would make our sidewalks more walkable, among other things. That said, Emeryville will never become more walkable until someone enforces speed limits on our streets.

    1. Points for creativity Will. This would be super expensive...probably even more than buying existing buildings with businesses in them and paying to move the businesses to tear down the buildings to build the park. Still, perhaps it could be done but again, once the air rights have been purchased (presuming they could), why would the City Council agree to build park space up there? Not when they could invite in a developer instead and build more housing. In fact if they ever try to build a big park from now on (an unlikely scenario) , the question to them is 'OK, it's really expensive, but why wouldn't you build a park at the inexpensive Sherwin Williams site in 2016?' Sherwin Williams will forever stand as a monument to failed public policy from these five City Council members who all campaigned on bringing more parks but couldn't summon the strength to say NO to a developer when put to the test. Taking the blame off the Council, this is who we are in Emeryville. The people here don't get involved enough to force the Council to honor their promises.