Search The Tattler

Saturday, October 31, 2020

School Board Looks at Raising Administrators' Pay After Promising Voters They Wouldn't

Board Considers Raising Admin Pay After Passage of Measure K 

Emeryville Measure K Parcel Tax Passed Last Spring Promised No Money to Admin

The Emery Unified School District is pondering raising the salaries of non-teacher administration employees after assuring Emeryville citizens considering Measure K, a school parcel tax passed by voters last March, they would not.  Despite strong ballot language guaranteeing that there would be no increase in administration salaries from the March 3rd election, the School Board has hired a consulting firm to look into increasing administration salaries, just as taxpayer money from Measure K is beginning to flow into the District's coffers.  

The Board took up the item at their meeting last Wednesday with a power point presentation from School Services of California, a Sacramento based consulting firm paid by the District.  After reporting that Emery administrators' compensation is "significantly below" teacher pay, the consulting firm suggested the District should first raise administration compensation before increasing teacher pay.

Board Member
Lauren Salazar

We cannot commit to honor
our pledge to not raise
admin salaries at this time.
Concerned Letter From the Mayor

The Board's agendized discussion/action item was enough to prompt an October 28th letter from former School Board Trustee and current Emeryville mayor, Christian Patz who challenged the Board to not raise administrator's salaries until new revenue sources could be secured to pay for it.  Mayor Patz, noting the fungible nature of money, raised the idea that the District could tap the pot of Measure K money, expressly not for administration compensation, to pay for administrator pay increases nonetheless.  The Mayor challenged the Board directly, "Commit to not adjusting administrators' salaries until you identify new revenues to pay for those increases.  This means not just shifting teacher salaries to the parcel tax income but actual new income." 

The Mayor's letter was not well received.  Board members universally expressed their displeasure, especially President  Brynnda Collins who chastised Mr Patz for his questioning of the Board's promise to not misuse Measure K money, "I find it hard to believe leadership [on the City Council] can't be on Team Emery" she said.  She called the letter "sad".  Outgoing Board member Cruz Vargas was even less circumspect, bringing up Mr Patz's lack of support for Measure K last March, "People who could have supported us [during the Measure K campaign] didn't.... and it's not worth our time to respond to them now" he said, adding anything that's done with Measure K funds would be done "for the kids"

Board member Lauren Salazar put it most succinctly stating she has faith in the process.  Responding to Mayor Patz's request for a Board commitment to not violate Measure K funding promises made to the voters, Ms Salazar spoke for the Board indicating all options would be retained, saying "Making any commitments now is inappropriate."  

Asked to clarify, Board President Collins later told the Tattler any notion that the Board is considering raising administration salaries in any incorrect way is "full of shit".

Mayor Patz however made it very clear he doesn't trust the Board will honor their pledge to the voters.  He told them, "This past spring, you put forth and passed a parcel tax with the promise 'no funds for administrator salaries.'   That is a direct quote from the ballot language you put to the voters.  At the time, I said the Board could not be trusted with the voters' money and was not being honest about how they would use the funds.  Now that the funds are available, the groundwork is being laid to prove me right."

After hearing the consultation presentation from School Services of California, the Board voted to push the issue of raising salaries, administrators' and/or teachers', off to a future meeting.

Measure K levies 12 cents per square foot of residential and commercial building area, taking in an additional $1.8 million per year for Emery Unified.  That amount represents a 37% increase in cost for an average home from $405 to $555 annually according to the San Jose Mercury News who urged Emeryville voters to reject the measure in the run up to the March 3rd election.   

A previous iteration of Measure K, also a school parcel tax passed by voters in 2014 was supplanted by the new 2020 Measure K.  The Tattler reported in February that Emery Unified had deceived voters in the 2014 election after it was found that the District had increased administrators' salaries after also promising they wouldn't. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

27 Calls to Police, One Vehicle Ticketed: Why Our Bike Lanes Are Blocked

Blocked Bike Lanes:

Emeryville Doesn't Care About Bike Safety

A Combination of Lax Enforcement and Low Fines is a Recipe For Injured/Killed Bicyclists

News Analysis

Amid a growing prevalence of bike lane blockages and in response to a Tattler public records request, the Emeryville Police Department recently released citizen complaint driven data on vehicles illegally blocking the city’s bike lanes and the Department’s enforcement management to address the problem.  The numbers revealed show a city beset with dangerous bike lane blockages and a disinterested police department.

Over the six month period from March 1st to September 30th, a total of 27 citizen calls were placed to the police department complaining of vehicles blocking bike lanes resulting in one citation issued.  The lack of enforcement combined with the low cost to drivers for the infraction, $59 as we reported last August, puts bicyclists in the precarious position of having to cross the solid white line and swerve out into traffic, a move that has been identified by bike safety groups and the insurance industry as extremely dangerous.

Will Emeryville wait for a bicyclist to be killed
or severely injured before action is taken?

Twenty seven calls and one ticket written; those are the kinds of odds that make people willing to break the law.  That’s nearly the same odds as being dealt a first hand flush in seven card poker.  And that’s calculated only for the cars that receive citizen complaints.  If nobody calls the police to complain about your illegally parked car, a likely thing, your odds of getting a ticket for blocking a bike lane drop to something much lower than one in 27. 

This information reveals an Emeryville Police Department that places bike safety very low on its list of priorities.  By definition.

Vehicles blocking bike lanes isn’t relegated only to Emeryville of course.  In fact there’s a growing social movement to stop the dangerous practice.  Many cities are responding to the calls by increasing the fines and increasing patrolling for violators, as Chicago did in 2017.  In 2018 in Virginia and Maryland tickets for blocking bike lanes averaged over $220 and $260, respectively.  In Emeryville however, no such concern for bike safety exists and the deadly combination of low fines with lax enforcement spells future calamity.  

Police Department Purposely Doesn't Cite Violators

An Emeryville Police Department employee, wishing anonymity, told the Tattler he doesn’t see the dearth of tickets issued as a sign the Department isn’t taking bike safety seriously.  Upon learning that the public records request information was going to be made public by the Tattler, the police employee used a classic appeal from ignorance fallacy, stating, “The fact that we didn’t ticket these violators shows that we value bike safety.  These violators were asked to move along, solving the problem of the [bike] lanes being blocked.”  He added, “The priority is to get the vehicle out of the bike lane”.  Taking him at his word, none of this acknowledges the fact that drivers are typically not in the vehicles that are blocking the lanes and the obvious fact that police asking drivers to move is not solving the problem that parking in the bike lane is a good solution for drivers (especially if there aren’t any police visible).  

If police asking drivers to not park in bike lanes (without writing tickets) were having a palliative effect on bike lane blockage in Emeryville, there would tend to be fewer vehicles blocking bike lanes over time.  What we’ve seen is the opposite.  Indeed, to expect that issuing a ticket would not have a deterrent effect is to overturn the most basic precept upon which the whole paradigm of crime and punishment is based.  Bike lane blocking drivers that don’t have a moral compass and can’t seem to see the havoc they cause and the recklessness of putting bikers’ lives at risk will find the havoc on their bank account after they get a ticket for doing so.  

If Emeryville starts taking bike safety more seriously, fewer drivers will block our bike lanes and bikers will be safer.  As it stands now, drivers have a better than 96% chance they won’t get a ticket for blocking a bike lane and a $59 fine if they are among the unlucky 3% that do get a ticket.  The remedy for Emeryville is easy but so far the will is lacking.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Developer Goes Over City Council - City's Authority Stripped By New State Housing Law

47th Street Homes Project Ushers In New 'Upzone' Housing Boom In East Emeryville Neighborhoods

First Developer to Invoke New California Law to Override City Council

Flood of Housing Projects Will Bring More White People 

News Analysis

The desire of the people of Emeryville to plan their town as they see fit ran hard up against the power of the State Tuesday when the City Council, yielding to a new anti-planning state law that takes away local housing control, voted to allow a developer to tear down four affordable rental homes to be replaced with expensive rental townhomes.  Emeryville thus becomes one of the first Bay Area towns to test the new law, SB 330; a developer backed decree that seeks to increase housing density across California at the expense of citizen empowerment in their own city planning.

Emeryville residents watched in shock Tuesday night as the City Council voted unanimously to grant an out-of-town developer freedom to evict his multi-generational low income minority tenants in four contiguous homes he owns in order to demolish them and build unaffordable townhouses.  The net effect on 47th Street (and elsewhere after this precedent setting law begins to take effect) will be to make the neighborhood whiter, richer, less blue collar and generally less diverse.  It was shocking because neither the City Council or the Planning Commission wanted this to happen.  Shocking because the City Council is now seen as powerless to stop what will likely become a torrent of development, developers seeking their fortunes gentrifying the Triangle Neighborhood and North Emeryville, the last bastions of affordable genuine family housing left in our town.

SB 330, authored by our own local Assembly member Nancy Skinner, was advertised to overturn what was characterized by her as a state-wide culture of ‘NIMBYism’ that had contributed to California’s legendary status of being an epicenter of unaffordable housing.  Before it became law in January, SB 330 saw a powerful consortium of developer/lobbyists who glommed onto the legislation that sought to strip cities of their general plans, forcing them to approve virtually any housing project that would increase density.  Early on, some environmental groups signed onto the law (which would theoretically lessen pressure for cities to sprawl), an ‘eco’ seal of approval that lowered what would have normally been robust citizen involvement, adding to SB 330’s remarkably rapid legislative confirmation. 

Berkeley resident Assembly Member Nancy Skinner
(with mic) obtained Governor Gavin Newsome's
help in signing SB 330, the 'Housing Crisis
Act of 2019'.

Emeryville Is Not Guilty

Within SB 330’s pro-density zealotry, is a lack of recognition for towns that have behaved responsibly with their housing planning and building.  SB 330 lumps in towns that are not driven by housing NIMBYism with towns that have engaged NIMBYism that clearly do need to be reined in for the sake of the greater good.  It was against those irresponsible municipalities that Assembly member Skinner raised the specter of echelons of privileged and connected upper middle class town folk protecting their property values by stopping (lower income) development in a State that has seen property values skyrocket.  This kind of NIMBYism is a stereotype that certainly has a basis in fact when one looks to Bay Area towns like Piedmont, Tiberon or Atherton.  But SB 330 uses a sledgehammer to do its work and unnecessarily removes the people’s rights to plan their cities in areas that don’t need mandates from Sacramento - cities like Emeryville. 

Emeryville has shown itself to be a city not in need of SB 330.  NIMBYism, when it comes to housing, has not been in effect here.  Over the last 20 years, Emeryville has surpassed its market rate housing goals by triple digits as reported by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).  With housing numbers like Emeryville’s, no plausible argument can be made for City Hall needing to hand over its Planning Department to Sacramento.

SB 330 simply sets to increase the density of California cities.  It doesn’t speak to affordability, except by use of a trickle down nostrum, invoking a facile supply and demand panacea that incidentally has many critics.  Emeryville serves as a convenient case study.  As the town has doubled its population and then doubled it again, housing prices here continue skyrocketing upward, unabated, far outpacing general cost of living increases.

Slumlords Love the New Law

The 47th Street Homes Project is a particularly egregious example of gentrification.  The development corporation, FE Forbes has operated as a landlord for many years in the Triangle neighborhood, acting in a classic slumlord modus operandi according to the tenants.  The City Council was particularly incensed after it was revealed that Forbes hadn’t even fixed a heater in one of the 47th Street houses it owns, forcing the tenant, a grandmother with children living with her, to go without heat for ten years.  Forbes CEO, Mark Forbes, before invoking SB 330, argued the City should disregard the City’s ‘Areas of Stability’ clause in the General Plan because he hadn’t maintained the homes over the years and the resultant state of disrepair should serve as reason enough to grant permission to evict all the tenants and raze the four craftsman homes.  He failed to mention he would make a lot more money in rents with the new townhomes it should be noted.

The City Council (and the Planning Commission) voted NO to FE Forbes' demolition request in January, the first time a home teardown developer had been rejected by the City of Emeryville.  Thus, SB 330 now curtails what might have been a budding Council ethos, looking to protect its existing affordable family housing stock. 

The fate, decided by Sacramento, of Emeryville’s existing (affordable) 47th Street homes becoming the fabulous 47th Street Homes will serve as a dinner bell to developers.  The eastern residential part of Emeryville that Emeryvillians sought to protect in the General Plan is now on the menu for developers far and wide.  So long as the market prices hold out and barring a large economic turndown, the last stock of detached single family houses in Emeryville, demonstrably the most family friendly housing, will be under greater and greater pressure to fall to the wreaking ball.  Sacramento has seen to it that what little planning Emeryville may have had over the years is now going to be relegated to the dustbin of history.  SB 330 promises Emeryville and other Bay Area cities will descend into a new wild west anti-planning period of unregulated housing development, the will of the people be damned. 

Here come the techie yuppies!
Emeryville to become whiter, richer, less blue collar and fewer families.
A scene that will become increasingly common
in the East Emeryville neighborhoods with the passage of SB 330.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Breaking News: Council OKs Demolition of 47th Street Homes

 Tonight the City Council voted to grant the developer FE Forbes permission to tear down four contiguous 100 year old craftsman homes known as the 47th Street Homes Project, to built townhome replacements citing a new developer friendly California law that attempts to stop municipalities from saying NO to development that increases housing density.  The decision, a reversal of an earlier vote against the project, was cast solely as a result of the new law (SB 330) the Council said.  The vote promises to set a precedent for new ‘up zoned’ development in Emeryville’s last bastions of traditional single family detached residences in the Triangle Neighborhood and North Emeryville.  

Council member John Bauters, citing provisions in the Housing Element of Emeryville’s General Plan, argued that the City could make the approval of the project conditional regardless of SB 330, providing at least one unit of the all rental project be deed restricted as affordable.  The developer stated he would be willing to grant that as long as he would only be constrained to provide an affordable unit for 20 years and that a rental unit he owns on 48th Street be the constrained unit, not any of the new units on 47th Street. 

The vote was unanimous.   

 The Tattler will follow with an expanded story on this in days to come.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Emeryville Police Department Won't Release Racial Profiling Data Until 2023

 State to Force Emeryville to Track Race Data

Is The Emeryville Police Department Racist?

Citizens Can't Know Until 2023

Department Hasn't Been Tracking Data

News Analysis

For the amount of money the people of Emeryville pay for their police department, citizens should be able to check on the cops….to see what kind of a job they’re doing, like for instance racial profiling.…are they doing that?  To those who would want to know and that should be everyone, the police have a ready response: The people of Emeryville are not worthy of having that kind of information.  And the police are not required by law to keep the kinds of records that would inform citizens of that anyway.  They could, but they don’t.

The State of California is coming to the rescue however, bringing recalcitrant police departments like Emeryville’s to accountability and transparency.   Starting in 2022, Emeryville will be forced by law to track its police racial profiling data.  That’s cold comfort to Emeryville residents who want to know now if their police department is racist.  Full police accountability and transparency in Emeryville will have to wait.  

State law passed in 2015 (AB 953) requires every police department up and down California to track data that could prove if the police are racist.  Many departments are already complying with the law but Emeryville, waiting until the last minute, will not release its state mandated racial profiling data (collected starting in 2022) to the public until April of 2023.

The law, known as AB 953: The Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, will require Emeryville to collect, archive and disseminate (redacted) data obtained when citizens are stopped by the police including the result of the stop, such as, no action, warning, citation, property seizure, or arrest.  Also police will be required to archive the perceived race or ethnicity, gender, and approximate age of the person stopped.

As it stands now, an insouciant EPD tracks none of this data and the Department as a whole, as well as the people of Emeryville, are in the dark as to any culture of racism that might exist here.  Our current interim chief of police Robert Schreeder says as much, stating EPD “needs to be much more robust in how we track data”.  He told the Tattler, “Where I come from, this kind of data is part of the annual [police] report.” 

From the 2016 RIPA Report
Racial profiling by police in California
is by far the most prevalent.


An advisory board set up by AB 953, the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board (RIPA) released a report in 2018 that found racial profiling is common among police districts.  The report showed Black drivers in California were stopped by police at 2.5 times the per capita rate of whites and searched three times as often.  Black people accounted for 15% of all stops but make up about 6% of the population.  Hispanics accounted for 40% of stops, a slightly higher per capita rate, while whites were a third of the stops, a slightly lower rate.

Moreover, “a higher percentage of Black individuals were stopped for reasonable suspicion than any other racial identity group,” the board reported.  Officers were shown to search Black people nearly three times as often as to search whites, though white suspects were more likely to yield contraband or other evidence.  Black people also were more likely to be arrested and stopped at night.

The 2018 RIPA report showed that of 451 police departments across the state, 26% received citizen complaints alleging racial or identity profiling for the 2016 calendar year (the first year after AB 953 became law).

The disturbing findings are not relegated to rural police departments in the state.  The Bay Area is shown to be a hot spot of racist police practices.  Indeed, racist police are right on our doorstep.  Concurrent with the legally required RIPA annual reporting, Stanford University researchers conducted a multi-year comprehensive analysis of 28,000 citizen stops made by the Oakland Police Department.  Overall, they found a consistent pattern of racial disparities in the community members stopped, handcuffed, searched, and arrested by the OPD.

Former Police Chief Tejada Implicated

After the much publicized May 25th murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, even white people are becoming increasingly aware of the systemic racism in police departments across the nation.  And against that backdrop, people of good will benefit from the kind of data AB 953 reveals.  Many police departments in California, sensing a problem, began tracking racial profiling data even before AB 953, including departments as small as Emeryville’s.  Unfortunately, that wisdom hasn’t been in evidence here.  

While Emeryville citizens can’t know if their police department is racist now because of a lack of this data, we can know this is not an accident.  It's because of a lack of interest by the EPD.

Money For Yoga But Not Racial Profiling Data
Yoga time and other 'mindfulness' programs
at EPD takes 18% of the police budget.

The new law passed in 2015, just before the City of Emeryville  hired former Chief of Police Jennifer Tejada.  Chief Tejada was well aware of AB 953 and the systemic culture of police racism the law seeks to expose but she chose not to direct her officers to begin collecting the data that is needed.  Instead, Ms Tejada engaged in a program of officer ‘wellness’ at the department that focused on officer yoga.  Current Chief Schreeder noted Emeryville spends 18% of its budget on Ms Tejada’s wellness program; an unusually high percentage he reported to the City Council at a July 21st meeting.  Video can be seen HERE.

Former Chief Tejada, during her tenure preferred to not track data that would reveal possible racism at EPD but she did feel comfortable enough to release racist police blotter posts to the City’s website.  Over a period of a year after the Tattler exposed it, Chief Tejada kept issuing the racial identity of alleged perpetrators of crime in the blotter without any accompanying information that might bring the perpetrators to justice.  Citizens reading the City website at that time learned about “Black” suspects to specific crimes but no other identifying information, leading racially aware citizens to question why.  After the Chief could not supply a reason for her racist blotter posts, the City Manager ended the practice (all while the Tattler reported).  That media exposure was a lesson in how public embarrassment can be a great motivator for civic entities to engage in better behavior, and presumably the same will be able to be said about AB 953. 

The Tattler began an investigation into finding out if the Emeryville Police Department is racist on June 28th with a story entitled 'Announcing: The Emeryville Tattler Police Accountability Project'.  This disclosure that EPD will not release racial profiling data until April of 2023 serves as the culmination of the Tattler investigation.

Citizens can begin reporting complaints about suspected racial profiling incidents to the Emeryville police after April 2022.  The police will enter any reports into the new data base after that date.  Before April 2022, EPD has not specifically committed to keep or archive any racial profiling complaints.  Citizens will be able to track the 2022 data beginning April 2023 when the EPD reveals it in their annual report.  Only then will Emeryville residents be able to see if they’re getting a good value for the money they pay for their police (and if their police are racist).

Correction: We earlier reported the chief of police is hired by the City Council.  In fact the Chief is hired by the City Manager.  We apologize for the error.

Are They Racist?
Many police departments are.  The former Chief was (pictured at center bottom).
We don't know about Emeryville's police in the aggregate because it has 
not been a priority to reveal it to the public.
We'll find out in April of 2023.