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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Nora Davis Revisionism Runs Rampant

It's Set to Be Nora Davis This and Nora Davis That in Emeryville in 2021

Never Mind She Didn't Approve of Any of This Stuff

They're Now Crediting Her With

After her passing in 2020, revisionists look to redefine the former 
Councilwoman as something she was not.


Following former City Councilwoman Nora Davis’ passing in August 2020, there’s a movement among some in town to name a host of Emeryville public works after the long time Council veteran.  At least three such public works and one private building are being considered for recognition of the former Councilwoman: Nora Davis Station (the Emeryville Amtrak station), Nora Davis Park (Doyle Hollis Park), Nora Davis Senior Center (the Emeryville Senior Center) and Nora Davis Bridge (the South Bayfront Bridge).  This is a terrible idea for Emeryville moving forward and we urge the City Council to reject these name changings that would, in effect, re-write history as they attempt to recognize the Councilwoman’s 29 year long tenure on the Council.

Nora Davis or Fred Koramatsu Bike/Ped Bridge 
One fought against bikes on this bridge
the other fought against racism and for human dignity.
We understand conservatives in our town are lamenting the loss of paradigmatic power they had at City Hall when Councilwoman Davis ran the show but it would be a mistake to use the commons to now pay homage to this person who’s values are decidedly not representative of the Emeryville community today (if they ever were).  Further,  Ms Davis actually worked AGAINST two of the works now being considered to be named after her; Doyle Hollis Park and the South Bayfront Pedestrian/Bike Bridge. 

Consider how Emeryville values are subverted by Councilwoman Nora Davis’ 29 year record (partial list):

-  As Mayor, she lobbied to build a parking structure on the site of the Doyle Hollis Park, working actively against the park idea.

-  While accepting a South Bayfront pedestrian bridge be constructed, Council member Davis advocated against designing it for bicycle use.

-  She voted against implementation of Emeryville’s democratically vetted Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan.

 -  Councilwoman Davis worked against the Minimum Wage Ordinance and even against an earlier plan to increase hotel workers’ wages to $9 per hour claiming it would destroy Emeryville’s hospitality industry.

-  She lobbied against bike/ped paths, claiming without evidence, one proposed at the Center of Community Life would bring “gang rapes” and another mid-block path proposal in the Triangle neighborhood, opining “Triangle neighbors need more exercise”.

-  Ms Davis voted to close down the Emeryville Child Development Center and to privatize it, claiming “We can’t afford it”.

-  She voted in favor of every developer proposal put before her that called for demolishing historically/architecturally significant buildings, leaving the town bereft of these buildings our General Plan had sought to preserve.

-  Ms Davis worked on behalf of the business community, directing public monies to the furtherance of private enterprise as a routine manner, proudly claiming many times, 'Emeryville’s interests are business interests' from the dais.

-  Council member Davis' voting record was a perfect 100% in favor of developer’s initial proposals for housing projects, against negotiating for more family friendly and affordable housing units.

The City of Emeryville will have nothing to say about the renaming of the Amtrak Station after Nora Davis because that building is owned by Wareham Development Corporation.  We understand Wareham CEO Rich Robbins received lots of public largess over the years, monies directed his way by his friend on the City Council, Nora Davis.  We understand the soft spot Ms Davis occupies in Mr Robbins’ heart.  So we recognize Nora Davis Station is likely a done deal for that property owned by Mr Robbins but City owned properties are another matter entirely. It is unseemly at best for the Council to move forward on any of these re-naming proposals.

Nora Davis or Sylvia McLaughlin Park 
At least Sylvia liked parks.

We understand the proclivity for elected officials to recognize when a departed fellow public official had remained on the job for a long time.  But using that metric, why wouldn’t the City Council name these public works after those who stayed in public employ even longer than Ms Davis?  Why wouldn’t the City name these public works after for instance the LaCoste family, who’s members, Al and John served on the City Council, as Mayor and Chief of Police for more than 50 years?  Does it matter these public officials were known corrupt public personages? If this City Council feels that public corruption should serve as a barrier against the honoring by so naming public works, why shouldn’t disloyalty to professed Emeryville values also then serve as a barrier?

If this City Council feels an urge to re-name the South Bayfront Bridge or Doyle Hollis Park or the Emeryville Senior Center, we recommend they honor a previous grand civic tradition for naming public works after great civil rights leaders or environmental leaders.  How about let’s name these public properties after people who actually reflect our values?  May we suggest Fannie Lou Hamer Bridge, Judi Bari Park and the Maggie Kuhn Senior Center?  Or we can keep it more local: the Fred Korematsu Bridge, Sylvia McLaughlin Park and the Bullet Marasigan Senior Center.  Against these luminaries, those who actually worked to increase justice and promote the public commons, Nora Davis just sort of fades.  Maybe it’s because Nora Davis actively disliked some of the things her boosters now want to name after her.  Perhaps the City Council, under pressure from these boosters, will have real empathy towards the former Councilwoman and leave her out of this.  After all, posthumously would you want to be named after something you hated while you were alive?

Nora Davis or Bullet Marasigan Senior Center
One worked for the business community
the other worked for the dispossessed elderly.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Emeryville: Where a Door is Not a Door

Door  \ dȯr \   noun

1: A hinged or otherwise movable barrier that allows ingress into and egress from an enclosure.

Emeryville Door \ ˈem-rē vil  dȯr \  noun

1: A barrier resembling a door that blocks ingress into and egress from an enclosure.

News Analysis
There’s a corporate entity in Emeryville more powerful than the City of Emeryville and the Alameda County Fire Department combined.  This is a nation-wide corporation with a local Emeryville profit center address that has the power to redefine English words in order to retroactively make signed contracts work to their benefit.  They even have the power to unilaterally re-write the fire code to make it align with their desires to increase profits (for more than 72 fiscal quarters so far).  What corporation is this?  It's CVS Pharmacy, America's ubiquitous and seemingly innocuous strip mall chain fixture.  In the world of corporate malfeasance, CVS ranks with the best of them; from illegally peddling oxycontin, to bribery of elected officials, to wholesale customer medical record HIPAA violations, CVS is a classic corporate bad actor.  
Here at their Emeryville unit, the malfeasance is more pedestrian, so to speak.  Here, it’s all about their fire exit doors.  CVS doesn’t like the doors, so they’re not allowing it, regardless of their contractual agreement with the City of Emeryville’s Planning Department or the dictates of the California Fire Code and its enforcers at the Alameda County Fire Department.  Full stop.
Permanently Locked Fire Exit Doors
On one side, a sign says "Emergency Exit"
and the other side says "Bitch".
One was put up by the Alameda County Fire Department,
the other possibly by a graffiti artist.  Or maybe
both signs were placed by the Fire Department.  

Back in 2002, when the building at 4349 San Pablo Avenue was built, the previous owner, the now defunct Longs Drugs (subsumed by CVS in 2008), agreed to place doors on the sidewalk to assuage an Emeryville General Plan dictate that requires retail businesses on that street to follow an urban design guideline meant to activate the pedestrian sidewalks.  But Longs and the new masters, CVS, prefer a suburban strip mall model for their stores with a parking lot out front and doors there.  That model ran headlong into the General Plan with its urban model.  So the pharmacy simply signed the agreement and immediately proceeded to close off the doors, rendering them inoperable.  Customers use the parking lot doors, making the Emeryville unit in the style of their preferred strip mall suburban model despite initial objections from Emeryville.  

Complaints against the CVS doors over the years have gotten nowhere because the corporate giant simply ignores pleas from the City of Emeryville and orders from the Alameda County Fire Department.  Charlie Bryant, the Planning Director of the City of Emeryville has since given up asking CVS to honor their agreement and he now fully takes the position that the doors need not be operational for the corporation to be in compliance.  Mr Bryant has not seen fit to answer to the definition of the common English word “door” that is explicit in its insistence that a person be able to pass through one for it to qualify.  Resemblance to a door is good enough.
Over at the Alameda County Fire Department, they’re not so blatant in siding with CVS, rather they simply aren’t enforcing the ongoing fire code violation.  Citizen complaint driven rather than fire concern driven,  ACFD keeps issuing orders to keep the doors open but CVS keeps ignoring the orders.  Interestingly, a while back, the ACFD put up an “Emergency Exit” sign on the outside to keep homeless people from blocking the doors.  But inside, the exit is still blocked by CVS with merchandise and a permanently closed heavy steel roll down door.

These are just a couple of doors.  Why is our government so flummoxed by this?  Why can’t this easy problem just be taken care of?  Is our government really this hapless?  These doors, meant to enliven the San Pablo Avenue sidewalk and to keep people safe in the event of a fire, can be seen as a metaphor for the general state of societal dysfunction over the last couple of decades where governance over the public commons has increasingly played deference to private corporations that are untouchable in their monarchal power.  This corporation doesn’t want these doors so they’re not going to open them.  Eighteen years in, that’s obviously the end of the discussion.  Still, we like to imagine a bygone time when the Alameda County Fire Department worked to keep the public safe from fire and when the City of Emeryville, likewise burdened with the people’s business, were unconcerned with a private corporation’s pecuniary interests regardless how many billions in assets it might have.

The latest order from the Alameda County Fire Department.
Every so often the Emeryville CVS Pharmacy gets one of these orders. 
The corporation promptly puts them in 'File 13' and goes about its business.
Maybe the Fire Department thinks the scary red ink is helping.

Friday, December 25, 2020

New Chief of Police Named

Former BART Deputy Chief to be 

Emeryville Top Cop

Jeffery Jennings moves from BART
brass to Emeryville Chief of Police
Breaking News

BART Deputy Chief Jeffery Jennings will be sworn in as Emeryville’s new Chief of Police in an event on Monday the City announced.  Deputy Jennings follows interim Chief Robert Schreeder who was appointed in June as the City searched for a new permanent Chief.  Outgoing Deputy Chief Jennings has 26 years of law enforcement experience which began at the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department where he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant before he became part of the BART top brass.  

Mr Jennings attended San Francisco State University and completed his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at CSU Sacramento.  He earned a graduate degree with a Master’s in Public Administration from Golden Gate University.

Deputy Chief Jennings found himself embroiled in controversy in 2016 when he defended fellow BART officers in San Francisco who punched a man already in handcuffs in front of scores of witnesses, at least one of whom recorded the altercation.  After police charged the man with battery as a result of spitting at them in addition to the original charge, Public Defender Jeff Adachi called for prosecutors to drop the remaining counts, saying his client did nothing wrong.“It’s really an example of what’s wrong with our system. The system run amok,” Mr Adachi said.  Chief Jennings earned the enmity of San Francisco cop watchers when he said the punch was a “tactical distraction blow” and nothing criminal.  

In 2017, then acting as temporary BART chief of police, Mr Jennings opposed a citizen oversight watchdog committee set up in the wake of the infamous BART Oscar Grant shooting.  The committee had proposed new standards for use of force requiring officers to use only the minimum amount of force necessary to make arrests. 

Mr Jeffery Jennings will command an Emeryville police force in transition as the City Council joins with citizens demanding more accountability after the shooting of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.  

Sunday, December 20, 2020

South Bayfront Ped/Bike Bridge Spans Railroad Tracks

Some 37 years after it was first proposed, a bridge for pedestrians (and bicycles) has finally spanned the railroad tracks between Powell and 40th streets in Emeryville.  At 11:15 Saturday night, a crane lifted the red steel pre-built arch over the tracks while workers busily fastened it down on both the east and west anchorages.  The next several months will bring completion of the ancillary approaches and other finishes.  Pedestrians and bicyclists will be able cross the completed span in summer of 2021.

The elevator at the pedestrian bridge
at the Amtrak Station was out of 
service again Saturday.
The new bridge, called the South Bayfront Ped/Bike Bridge will connect the Bay Street Mall with east Emeryville and get the City just a little bit closer to realizing its long standing General Plan shibboleth of Emeryville being ‘a connected place’.

As if by design to serve as a counterpoint, the elevator at the Amtrak Station pedestrian bridge that also spans the railroad tracks was out again on Saturday, a perennial frustration that has helped spur the new bridge. 

 The South Bayfront bridge has gone through a very tortured path over the years to finally get to this point.  Its first iteration, proposed by then City Manager Joe Tanner was a modest crossing only for pedestrians with stairs and elevators at either end.  Later, in 2005, a bicycle contingent led by soon-to-be-elected City Councilman John Fricke said any bridge built there must include bicycles.  Pushback against Mr Fricke’s bike friendly bridge idea came from the next City Manager, John Flores, who said bicyclists represented a “ruffian element” and that the bridge design should preclude bikes because bicyclists could use it as an escape route from crimes.  Luckily, Mr Flores’ argument didn’t win the day and after a selection process, the new design allowing for bike riders became the final plan.   As late as 2011, it appeared the bridge would never be completed after the State attempted to seize money set aside by the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency.  

After the City passed on an ambitious plan by the Emeryville based visionary architect/designer Eugene Tssui, the final design of the pedestrian/bike bridge has been called ‘pedestrian in use and design' in the sense that it lacks excitement or innovation.  It may not be too beautiful but it's certainly a long overdue stitching together of railroad divided east and west Emeryville.

A train roared past minutes before the crane began lifting the span into place.

It was all finished up by 12:30 AM.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Mayor Christian Patz, Lacking Leadership and Drive Gets a D+

Mayor Christian Patz

Continuing our tradition of looking back on each year-long mayorship of the rotating Emeryville City Council members/cum mayors, with Christian Patz now moving aside to make way for Dianne Martinez, we take this opportunity to look back on Mayor Patz’s shambolic tenure as Emeryville's highest elected official.  This year, the Tattler adds a new feature to these mayoral wrap-ups; the assignment of letter grades for each mayor—and to that end, we report Christian Patz has received a disappointing D+ for his efforts as our mayor.


The most noteworthy aspect of Emeryville's mayor Christian Patz was his lack of energy and lack of follow through.  

Emeryville 2020 Mayor
Christian Patz 
Each mayor tends to assign for themselves some scope of work that can fairly be described as their signature issue.  Usually, it's introduced and brought to fruition during their year long term.  For Mr Patz, the defining issue of his term as mayor was the renaming of 47th Street after Steve Dain, a former teacher-of-the-year who was subsequently fired in 1977 by Emery Unified School District for being a transgender person.  But after introducing early in his term, the idea to rename the street to honor the teacher specifically and inclusivity in general, Mr Patz seemed to lose interest in the issue and he failed to follow through.  It was a noble thing Mr Patz proposed, but after Transgender Awareness Week and then the Transgender Day of Remembrance quietly passed in the weeks before his term as mayor ended, it became clear Mayor Patz had no intention to follow through with his own good idea. 

An item Mayor Patz had a hand in that actually got done was last March’s Measure F, a quarter cent sales tax passed by Emeryville voters that will help fund the Emeryville police department's quest to hire more officers as well as pay to hire a new staff member at City Hall to operate code enforcement.  Mr Patz, who was a strong supporter of the tax increase, cast himself as the leader in the push for the measure.  To the mayor's chagrin, this election victory came right before the very public murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department in May, making for terrible public policy optics if not demonstrable furtherance of the police culture dystopia. 

Beyond these two issues, one squandered and the other feckless, Mayor Patz's record was one of mostly ignoring problems.  Below is the roster of shame:

-Mayor Patz didn’t deliver a public library or even start to explore the building an Emeryville library after he officially placed this task as one of the top ten 2020 priorities for the City Council at the beginning of his term.  

-He refused to implement traffic calming for the 45th & 53rd street bike boulevards as required by the City’s Bike Plan.  He even refused on his watch, to conduct a traffic count for all bike boulevards as the City is supposed to do, once every two years so we can know how bad it is for bicyclists.  

-He refused to call out Lennar Development before the Council to explain their misdeeds after a high level Department of Toxic Substance Control whistleblower revealed a regime of cheating the cleanup at the Sherwin Williams toxic soil clean up site on Horton Street.

-Mr Patz failed to act on Emeryville’s deplorable lack of public parks, the worst of any East Bay city.  Regardless that the General Plan calls for three acres of park for every 1000 new residents, Mayor Patz couldn’t be bothered to do anything about this emerging quality of life concern for Emeryville residents.  Incidentally, the plan, if followed, would move Emeryville from the worst to the second worse East Bay city for parks in ten years.  

 -Not big on accountability and sloppy with records, the Mayor missed his FPPC campaign filing deadlines, making it impossible for citizens to see who funded his political campaigns.

-More recently, the Mayor has sat by idly and unconcernedly as City Hall has implemented a policy shift, weakening it’s duty to enforce COVID-19 mask wearing regulations.  The staff has relaxed the enforcement protocols for developers and their construction workers who are supposed to be wearing masks.  But Mayor Patz has not joined with citizens asking why the City would lower the safety guidelines even as the virus has been exploding in the community.

-He is thin skinned and cannot countenance citizens criticizing his job performance as mayor.  He has acted in a childish and impetuous manner, lashing out at citizen critics asking for accountability.

Christian Patz has served as the source of levity on the Council, using his position to offer up rations of bad puns, funny asides and humorous anecdotes.  These make for more enjoyable meetings to be sure.  He seems good natured (except when he feels attacked) but the most salient thing about Mr Patz as our mayor overall was his simple laziness.  He didn’t really put in any effort to get anything done, the pro-cop Measure F notwithstanding.

We may be a bit harsh with regards to Mayor Patz and his inaction on parks in the bullet point list above.  While it is true he did not taken action to implement the General Plan's park dictates, in his defense, neither have any other City Council members.  But as we look back, we remember what citizen Patz gallingly said about bike boulevards in 2016 when he was asking for our votes.  He made this specific campaign promise: “What makes a Bike Boulevard is more than just Vehicle Trips per Day (VTD), it has more to do with optimizing bike traffic.  As VTD approach and surpass 3000, more separation between bikes and cars should occur.  Ideally, this would be done by reducing and diverting traffic, but can also be achieved by dedicated and protected lanes.”  Christian Patz ignored this subject utterly both as our City Council member over three years and as our Mayor over the last year.  And for that, plus the litany of failed policy highlighted, we give Mayor Patz a D+ (and we’re being generous).