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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Emeryville By The Numbers

Introducing a new Tattler feature; 'Emeryville By The Numbers'
We'll highlight from time to time, what makes our town unique as compared with our neighbors.

Public Libraries in the Bay Area By The Numbers

Emeryville is the largest city in the Bay Area without a library-

Emeryville: 2018 estimated population 12,104 (u.s. census)

-Ranking of Largest Bay Area Cities Without Libraries: 1
-Total Municipalities in the Nine County Region: 101
-Towns Without a Public Library: 7
-Towns With a Public Library: 94
-Smallest Town With a Library: 2,982
-Average Population of the Six Towns Other Than Emeryville Without a Library: 5,752
-Average Population of the 14 Towns Smaller Than Emeryville With a Library: 6,410
- Number of Months since Emeryville Residents Voted YES on Measure J, the $95 Million School, Community Center and Public Library Bond: 109

Literacy and the social cohesion it creates is a cultural hallmark of the San Francisco Bay Area as reflected in its impressive system of public municipal libraries.  The Bay Area as it turns out, is crazy over public libraries. The vast majority of cities, towns and even hamlets in the nine counties that comprise the Bay Area has at least one library, even Napa County’s tiny Yountville at 2,982 souls has got a downtown public library.  In fact, there are only seven towns in the entire Bay Area that don't have a public library.
Emeryville however has the dubious distinction of being the largest town in the nine counties without a public library.  Of the 101 total municipalities in the 6,966 square mile nine county region, 20 are smaller than Emeryville and of that group, 14 have their own libraries.  The bedroom community of Piedmont in Alameda County, with a population of 11,238, is the second largest town without a library.

With a population of 1510, Colma can be forgiven not having a public library.
What's Emeryville's excuse?

Small Towns With Big Community Values
Tiny Yountville leads the pack; showing the Bay Area how to foster a vibrant
and connected community.  Are you listening, Emeryville?

Friday, November 29, 2019

Mayor Ally Medina Finishes a Lackluster Term

Q: How Did Mayor Medina Do on 
Her Pet Issues of Bikes and Parks?

A: Zilch

And so ends the downbeat tenure of Emeryville mayor Ally Medina.  Tuesday night Ms Medina hands over the mayoralty to Council member Christian Patz, ending the Medina era of …..what exactly?  Well, it’s not bike transportation or parks, the two issues that were central to her election campaign as she ran for City Council in 2016.  On those issues, she was a dud.  A non-starter.  Anything else?  What did Mayor Medina do for Emeryville during her term as mayor?  The readers will be forgiven if they struggle with this.
The answer is: very little.

Mayor Ally Medina Posing With A Bike
Irony alert!
Use agitprop to turn your
liability into an asset.
Truth be told, one could make an argument we’re being generous when we say Mayor Medina did nothing of consequence during her year long term.  On her two pet issues, conspicuously proclaimed on the campaign trail ("I am personally committed to taking the lead" she said at the time), she's actually taken us backward.
Regarding bikes, Mayor Medina has made it clear she doesn’t like our bike boulevard system.  It’s a stance we wish she had made clear before she made all her promises as a Council candidate.  Ten years ago, Emeryville spent $200,000 and countless hours of volunteer citizen effort formulating our Bike Plan, the central tenet of which is our bike boulevard network.  It would have been nice to know at the time that a candidate running for Council held it in such contempt.

Candidate Medina said she would implement our Bike Plan but Mayor Medina now says protected bike lanes are better.  So she set about ignoring the clear and mounting problems of excess traffic on the 45th and 53rd street bike boulevards, putting bikers in harm’s way.  The Bike Plan has a prescription for how to make boulevards safe for bikers….and a timeline.  There are too many cars and trucks on those two bike priority streets according to a traffic count conducted by the City more than two years ago.  As soon as that information was gathered, the City had two years to implement a regime of traffic calming as delineated by the Bike Plan.  Then the clock ran out for Mayor Medina to install the required traffic calming.  But it's not as if she didn't have enough time.  She simply let it languish during her entire term as mayor.  Inexplicably, she refused to even let the Bike Committee discuss the issue as she steadfastly refused to explain the inaction that has effectively taken the safety of bicyclists out of the purview of the City of Emeryville, at least on those two streets.

Mayor Medina’s experiment with protected bike lanes, her unilateral answer to our bike boulevard network, has been a disaster.  Horton Street, a street with a huge amount of traffic but still listed in the books as a bike boulevard (despite a final ruling against it by Council members Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue in 2016), has drawn her in.  Mayor Medina, who serves as the Council liaison to the Bike/Ped Advisory Committee, instructed Public Works to install plastic bollards near the Amtrak Station meant to separate bikes and vehicles instead of implementing the Bike Plan's traffic calming regimen.  Horton, like 45th and 53rd streets is a street with too much vehicle traffic to be safe for bikers, and the bollards have caused commercial vehicles to park on the sidewalks and in the bike lanes, trapping the cyclists and causing them to veer sharply out into moving traffic.  It’s an issue that a local TV news station highlighted as complaints poured into City Hall.
If Ms Medina and the City had simply followed the Bike Plan and installed its traffic calming measures, Horton Street would be safe for bicycling with plenty of parking spaces for cars and yellow curbs for commercial trucks.  But bike boulevards are an issue the Mayor and the City can’t seem to countenance, never mind all the crowing at election time. 

Regarding parks, another self proclaimed favorite topic of our mayor, Emeryville is epic: as in epically bad.  Our city is the worst in the entire East Bay as far as parks go.  Parks and open space service is measured in residents per acre and at some 500 people per acre of park, a number that keeps rising as we keep increasing our population, residents here are green space starved.
Meanwhile, our General Plan is very clear about this issue: parks are essential and it’s resolved: all new large residential projects are supposed to offset the degradation in the parks-to-residents ratio by providing no less than three acres per thousand new residents.  Unfortunately, Emeryville has failed utterly on this issue and Mayor Medina, who sanctimoniously said we could trust her on parks, has done nothing during her term as mayor to address the issue all while the condition continues to get worse.

The Sherwin Williams Tree Debacle
Council Member Medina sees what
the developer tells her to see: dead and
dying trees.
Everybody else sees healthy shade
giving trees, doing what trees are
supposed to do.
And then there's the issue of the Sherwin Williams street trees.  Ms Medina went down in flames with the City Hall staff and the developer of that impending construction project who wanted to kill every public street tree fronting it.  Without providing evidence, the developer told us they couldn't save the trees due to underground electrical cables they needed to install.  Besides, the trees in question are dead and dying they told us, over the objections from the City's own arborist.  The developer's performance was enough to convince the staff and Councilwoman Medina.
Ally's colleagues however could see the tree cutting scheme for the con job that it was; a plan to bolster the developer's profit margin at the resident's expense.  Only Council members Martinez and Medina were duped.  The others on the Council saw right through the obvious profit maximizing ploy being foisted by the developer.  Almost two years after calling their bluff, the City Council majority saw the developer and the staff, hats in hands, finally admit the trees could be saved after all.  And a chasented Ally Medina apologizing for her naivety.

While Mayor Medina has certainly been a disappointment, in her defense, it was her misfortune to follow John Bauters.  Mayor Bauters, whom we had our disagreements with during his term, nonetheless used his prodigious if artless political skills to escort Measure C, a $50 million affordable housing bond through to voters.  That plus other consequential policies he enacted made Mayor Bauters a tough act to follow to be sure.  But that doesn’t absolve Mayor Medina who, like them all, is charged with moving Emeryville forward during their terms as mayor.  We would have thought, at least on the issues she claims to champion, Mayor Medina would have made some progress.  We never would have imagined her to shut down the cause of government transparency and accountability as she has done on the issue of the 45th and 53rd street bicycle boulevards.

It gives us no pleasure to say Ally Medina has been a bust as mayor of Emeryville.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Onni Project: RULE Meeting to Presage City Sponsored Town Hall

The citizen advocacy group Residents for a Livable Emeryville is holding a meeting this coming Saturday about the proposed 54 story Onni project on Christie Avenue.  The meeting is intended to gather and disseminate community information in the run up to a City of Emeryville sponsored Town Hall meeting RULE has proposed.   RULE meetings are open to all except City Council members (except by invitation), and everybody else, including our Berkeley and Oakland neighbors, are encouraged to attend.
The following is submitted by RULE:

Hello Friends and Neighbors!

Please join us for our next RULE meeting 10 am Saturday, November 23. Bring your questions and concerns and visit with your neighbors over coffee and breakfast. The meeting will be held at Doyle Street Co-housing, 5514 Doyle Street, Emeryville (across the street from the Doyle Street Cafe).

At least half of this two-hour meeting will be devoted to discussion of the proposed 54-story (638-foot) Onni super tower at the corner of Christie Avenue and Powell Street in Emeryville. RULE is working with Mayor Ally Medina and City staff to put together a Town Hall meeting of residents, city officials and staff, Onni developers, and environmental, building, and other experts to discuss the project. RULE has also formed a Strategy Committee to focus efforts on the issue.

Everyone is encouraged to attend and share their views.

Residents' principle concerns about the Onni project:
- developer requesting to be excused from minimum number of family friendly (2- and 3-bedroom) units required by the City
- size of project out of scale for surrounding area
- detrimental environmental impact
- traffic impact
- bicycle and pedestrian safety and access, particularly for seniors
- lack of sufficient green space and other amenities
- Housing appeals to foreign investors who will not live there
- Housing rented or purchased for purpose of Airbnb rentals

About the project:
The proposed Onni Tower includes 653 residential units, the majority of which will be market rate studios and one-bedrooms. The development does not meet the city's required unit mix for families, and the developer has asked the City Council to excuse it from that requirement due to the added expense.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Forget the Minimum Wage; It's Time to Rollback Our City Council Healthcare Costs

If Rollbacks Are Fair Game, How About 
This One, City Council?

We all watched with amazement last May as the Emeryville City Council majority, a self proclaimed ‘progressive’ lot, voted to roll back our Minimum Wage Ordinance and punch down against the working poor, the traditional victims in contemporary America.  In so doing, they conspicuously switched victims and chose instead to pour their empathy on the small business restaurant community and their Emeryville patrons who want cheap eats.  The rollback, supported by Council members John Bauters, Dianne Martinez and Scott Donahue was ultimately pushed back by the combined forces of the labor community and the people of Emeryville, who have shown they have more empathy (and numbers) for the working poor than those seeking a bargain at the local ramen eatery.

But the whole spectacle got us to thinking.  This City Council majority, who clearly feels the pain of the business community shouldering the costs of paying a living wage to their employees, must surely also feel the taxpayer’s pain who are shouldering the costs of the Council members' individual health care premiums.

Emeryville taxpayers are forced to pay almost $6000 every month for the five of them; a cost we don't have to be burdened with.  And $6000 is just for this month, next month might be more....the rates keep going up. It's a lot to bear for the constantly tapped Emeryville taxpayer. 
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez said it best when she voted last May to roll back Emeryville’s Minimum Wage Ordinance; we need to protect Emeryville’s small business community against these high labor costs in order to “keep them viable” she said.  Now it’s time for Ms Martinez who’s currently personally profiteering off the taxpayers to the tune of almost $2000 a month, it's time for her to protect us, the taxpayers…to keep us viable.
If Councilwoman Martinez and the rest of them want health care, let them buy it themselves.  Because there's a perfect analogy between the struggling business community and the struggling taxpaying residents.  Why is it OK that the Council use its power to provide monetary relief for the business community and not the residents?  In whose interests are the City Council looking after? Where's OUR rollback Mr Bauters, Mr Donahue and Ms Martinez?