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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Emeryville Public Library: Promised, Not Delivered

Library Bait & Switch?
We Paid $95 Million for a Library, 
Where Is It?

Public Cafe, Jobs Training Center and Solar Panels 
Also Promised But Missing

City/School District Won't Say 

In 2010, the 73% of Emeryville voters who voted to tax themselves $95 million for a public library at the Emeryville Center of 'Community' Life and have seen their property taxes go up commensurately now that the Center has been finished these past five months, would be expected to wonder why no such library has been built. These same residents might also wonder why the job training center they also paid for has not been provided at the ECCL, nor has the cafe associated with the library they paid for been built.  Additionally, they voted for solar panels on the roof at the Center of 'Community' Life, presumably saving these same taxpayers money on electricity.  It was all paid for but none of it has been provided.
Distressingly, a year after the Tattler began a campaign to get some public accountability on this paid for infrastructure, we're no farther along as far as answers are concerned.  Officials at the City of Emeryville and the Emery School District still publicly say eventually these amenities will be built but they're not saying when, "We are exploring that" says City Manager Carolyn Lehr.
Privately, two officials who wished to remain anonymous told us they doubt these promised projects of the ECCL will ever get built.

Before the Measure J election in 2010, a public record in documents and video recordings of promises to provide the amenities was built up, leaving the City and the School District now exposed.  Measure J was the ballot initiative that brought the Center of 'Community' Life and was famously oversold as many have pointed out.  What beckoned at the ECCL as an aching to be filled up wish list for politicians seeking favor, easy in 2010, now becomes a sword of Damocles it would seem.

Former City Councilwoman Jennifer West who urged passage of Measure J told the Tattler recently she is particularly concerned about the fact that the public library with its promised public cafe has not been built, "The Council and the staff need to understand this was the goal.  It was sold to the public as part of the ECCL package" she said.
Ms West told prospective voters on her Council blog in 2010 to vote for Measure J, stating, "The library is another need in our area. According to the Oakland Public Library, this geographical area is under served and needs an expansion or an additional library.  A great school needs a library as well and by combining the library needs of both the schools and the public, we can create the efficiencies of scale to serve all users much better."  The former Mayor West used her blog to warn the community to remain vigilant, presciently expressing concern about "trust in our elected officials and leaders on this project".

The jobs training center was to be available for students at Emery but also it was sold to voters as an integral part of the Community Center and its services were to be available to the whole community.  The jobs center isn't even on the radar at this point; Pedro Jimenez, head of the Emeryville Community Services Department told the Tattler, "I'm unaware of it" and he said he doesn't know where it would even go if it were to be built.
Racks of solar panels that the voters authorized and taxpayers paid for at the ECCL were supposed to have been installed offsetting the electrical tab and saving taxpayers money but they have not been and officials would not say whether there are any specific plans to install them.

The public library, the job training center and the solar panels were explicitly part of the Measure J bond project list that was approved by voters in 2010 and likely must be provided by law since general obligation bond financing was used under the aegis of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the laws commensurate with that body.  Failure to comply with the terms of the bond sales could constitute fraud.
The cafe, as promised in City and School District documents as well as elucidated in many public meetings leading up to the vote, is not required by law to build, just ethics.

By 2015, it was becoming clear the ECCL project would not deliver all that was promised prompting then Emery School Board member and now City Councilman Christian Patz to muse, "Philosophically I agree with a lot of the concepts [of the ECCL]" he told the Hechinger Report, "but the execution has not been as promised".
Former Mayor Jac Asher was less circumspect, telling the Hechinger Report she didn't think the shared space idea behind the school/public library then touted would work, being "oversubscribed" as she said it would be.  The small parcel size of the ECCL space would drive this oversubscribing she said and called attempts to work out joint use by all stakeholders a 'logistical nightmare' for teachers and staff.

As far as the City of Emeryville is concerned as of now, these promised amenities will be built eventually but they refuse to commit to a date, "I can't give a date..." said Carolyn Lehr Emeryville City Manager, "it's not a simple thing".  However she did acknowledge the City is on the hook for providing the promised infrastructure, "I understand we're charged with bringing it forward" she said.


  1. Good work Brian. This is the tip of the iceberg. Stay on it.
    Taxpayers got screwed.

  2. I wouldn’t complain too loud, they will build whatever you want and we will be taxed for it undoubtedly. They already got us once for 95 million, and that money is gone already. Shouldn’t our city live within its means? What would be wrong with a student group starting up a small shop of their own that could be connected to the library that served coffee and other stuff to the public and the other students? This would promote the responsibility needed that is integral for “job training” and also the much needed extra cash that our students need for non-funded school activities.

    1. If you are correct that the money is already gone and now we cannot get a public library (and the other things), that would constitute a criminal act on the part of the City of Emeryville and the School District. If we paid for it, it must be provided or the money must be returned.

  3. Good to see Tattler on his toes and holding our officials' feet to the fire!

    That library--linked to the school but for everyone's use--is what first made me think ECCL would be a good idea for our town. It's been downhill ever since, and this is the last straw.

  4. This project WAS oversold. To get it approved by the voters it became an everything for everybody.

  5. what a them sell the anna yates site for another four story wooden condo complex to fund the stuff they didn't deliver. a total con from the get go. saw through the lies and voted against it. the whole school board belongs behind bars.