Search The Tattler

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Superintendent's Role in Emery's Rolling Teacher Retention Crisis Revealed

John Rubio On The Defense

Problem Worse Than Initially Reported
37% of Teaching Staff Leaves

Rubio Fiddles

Emery Unified School District's Superintendent John Rubio is facing charges of gross incompetency after it has been revealed he made an executive decision to spend just 1% of parcel tax proceeds out of $2.5 million on retaining teachers that has exacerbated a rolling crisis; teachers quitting Emery en masse. That and the fact he has made work life intolerable for many of the 53 teachers hired by Emery according to teachers themselves.

The regularly scheduled Emery School Board April 12th meeting brought a dramatic public showdown as Emeryville's Mayor led parents and teachers in demanding account from district Superintendent John Rubio for an ongoing and unprecedented exodus of teachers over the last year regardless of the glut of cash received from the taxpayers to stop it.  Mayor Scott Donahue, responding to a Tattler story March 18th and a follow up story March 22nd, requested the Superintendent account for public tax proceeds spent specifically to retain teachers at the troubled district and to get to the bottom of a culture that has manifest a leadership vacuum resulting in 20 teachers leaving in the last year alone (the number may actually be 21, we're still waiting for confirmation from an uncooperative School District).

Candid or truthful answers were not forthcoming from the Superintendent, leading the Board to call for revisiting the issue at a later meeting.  This despite Mr Rubio’s attempt to put the brakes on citizens such as the Mayor (who had made the request for the issue to be on the Board meeting agenda for the April 12th meeting) from making agenda item requests in the future in a proposed bylaws amendment.  The bylaw amendment idea was also shelved by the Board but not before Board member Barbara Inch quoted from Sacramento mandated education code that specifically empowers private citizens the ability to place legitimate school related issues on school board agendas.

$20,000 out of $2.5 million 
spent on teacher retention 
net a loss of 37% of the 
entire teaching staff.

Despite Emery’s abysmal record on teacher retention, by far the worst of any school district in the entire Bay Area, Mr Rubio gave the Board a glowing presentation of his work retaining teachers that inextricably highlighted “improvements” in the number of teachers rushing for the exits this year over last year.  It was a claim refuted by current City Council member and former School Board Trustee Christian Patz, who attended the meeting and noted this year’s teacher retention will not be substantially known until late May, when school districts all over the State view teacher resumes for hiring in the fall.  Added to that and rounding out the final numbers would be Emery teachers vacating after that, up until the end of the year.
Mr Rubio noted “only seven" teachers had left since January 1st, a number he used to show an improvement over last year however Mr Patz told the Board that at this point last year, also about seven teachers had had separated from the District (and that number subsequently rose to 20 by year's end).  The Tattler checked Mr Patz's claim and based on Board minutes, found the number the same; seven teachers had left by this time last year (see chart at below).

When it comes to job satisfaction, Emery teachers are voting with their feet. The numbers are disturbing.  The 20 certified teachers who quit last year, including the five who left mid year, represents a loss of some 37%, far worse than Oakland Unified School District who lost 7% of their teaching staff during the same period.  The next worse district in the East Bay Area is Berkeley Unified who lost 2% of their teachers.  The other districts large and small around the Bay Area all hover around 1.5% teacher loss.

These numbers are likely attenuated by the money spent by the District on retention as determined by the Superintendent.  Of more than $2.5 million taken in last year from Measure K, the parcel tax Emeryville voters passed in 2014, records show only 2% was spent on teacher recruitment and retention, about $41,000.  Ostensibly, only about $20,000 was spent on retention exclusively, a number that dovetailed with the Superintendent’s testimony that teacher retention, feeble by any standards included, “dinners with the Superintendent” and free refreshments served during professional development seminars.  The "signing bonuses" the Superintendent claimed were paid by Measure K parcel taxes last year and count as teacher retention actually came from outside donations specifically earmarked for that purpose; another point corrected by Councilman Patz from the floor.

Notably, Board President Donn Merriam so far is sticking up for Mr Rubio; he voted YES to renew the Superintendent’s contract when it came up for review last December against the admonitions from then School Board member Patz.  It should be noted Mr Merriam, who refused to comment to the Tattler for this story, was aware of the rolling crisis of teacher retention at the time.  The Tattler endorsed Mr Merriam when he first sought election to the Board in 2014.
The Tattler noted in a story in 2014 about Measure K that promoters had refused to quantify how teacher retention would be supported by the ballot measure, but ultimately ended up endorsing it.

Teacher retention is commonly cited as one of the twin poles parents and educators use as a barometer to determine a school district’s function. The other most commonly used metric, test scores, continues to be a stubborn and intractable problem for Emery.

Teacher retention
A summary of departures:
All Certificated
Total Teachers
Other Certificated
Mid Year

Below is a record of Certificated and Administrators staff that separated from Emery USD from Jan 2016 to Jan 2017.  This material is part of Emery USDs public record listed on each Agenda under 'closed session' with a link to actions taken.  AYE refers to Anna Yates Elementary School and ESS is Emery Secondary School (the High School).

Board Meeting Date

Taxpayer Funded Measure A (&K) Expenditures
Note: Measure A is slated to sunset and will be subsequently replaced with Measure K,
passed in 2014 and due to sunset after 20 years.  Both parcel tax measures tax at the
same rate. Emeryville residents are very supportive of their public schools. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wareham to Receive $208,000 in Public Funds

Council Gives Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
Gift of Public Money

Corporate Profits Remain Private But Risk is Made Public

Mayor Scott Donahue
Giving Wareham $200,000
of the people's money is nice
but $500,000 would be better.
In an unprecedented act of City Hall-to-developer largess in a city long known for its extraordinary generosity to developers, the Emeryville City Council, acting on a recommendation from the staff, voted Tuesday to give a lavish gift of $208,000 in public money to Rich Robbins of Wareham Development Corporation for the controversial 'Transit Center' project on Horton Street.  The City will write a check to Wareham, drawn from public funds because Mr Robbins, the CEO of Wareham and a major player among developers in town, thinks it's unfair to him that the City increased its development impact fees before the Transit Center was finished and that he should get any additional money he paid returned to him.  The final amount agreed to by the City Council Tuesday ends the contested cash back request from Mr Robbins begun in January when he asked the City for $729,000.

Councilwoman Ally Medina felt Rich Robbins' pain Tuesday night and argued to give Wareham $208,000, however her two colleagues Mayor Scott Donahue and Councilwoman Dianne Martinez thought Ms Medina was too stingy with the people's money and held out for a gift of $500,000 instead; the amount recommended by staff.  All three pointed to the public benefits the citizens will reap from the Transit Center project.  The City Attorney, Michael Guina reminded the Council members that returning the money to Mr Robbins is strictly voluntary and they are under no legal obligation to do so but that fell on deaf ears among the majority on the Council.
Ms Medina's argument ultimately held sway and the City of Emeryville will now write a check for $208,420 to Mr Robbins for building the project the Planning Commission twice voted down due to its "lack of public benefit".  The two figures bandied about Tuesday night ($208,000 and $500,000) represent two visions of what was characterized as "fair" by their respective City Council champions Tuesday but neither had any legal basis, opening up the City to possible lawsuits from other developers similarly taxed and looking to be made whole.
Councilwoman Dianne Martinez
Yes, let's make it a cool half million.

Mayor Donahue told the Tattler after the final vote, "Fees are paid or improvements are made to provide a city for reimbursement for public services.  When infrastructure is provided that the fees pay for, having that fee is a kind of double charge."  The Mayor added the cash back to Rich Robbins is "prudent" and speculating about future Wareham development projects in Emeryville, he cautioned, "We'll have to negotiate with Rich in the future (for our benefit)."
Councilwoman Medina expanded on the idea of "fairness" after the vote, stating she felt constrained by "the intent of [the City of Emeryville's] credit policy for transit impact fees' regardless of the City Attorney's concise release from any such (legal) constraint.

The dissenting Council members, John Bauters and Christian Patz, relied on the City Attorney's view and also the need for future transit public infrastructure improvements.  Mr Bauters reminded everyone of the considerable impacts the Transit Center will bring, especially as pertains to bike safety with the glut of cars from the 823 parking spaces the project will provide, "We're going to put a lot of cars on [the Horton Street] Bike Boulevard" he said noting the money, fungible as it is, could help ameliorate that safety issue and help other transit needs the City has.
For her part, Ms Martinez agreed the Transit Center will have a negative impact but she said she is more concerned with being "fair" to Mr Robbins.
Councilwoman Ally Medina
After what the City Attorney said,
$500,000 might sound too generous...
Let's settle on $200,000.

Mr Bauters noted developers, when they put together a project, take a risk that a municipality might change the rules (including the fee schedule) and they are not required to be made whole following such a public policy change.  "Development equals risk" he said Tuesday, raising the specter of the much derided federal government's fealty to Wall Street and their propensity to help them keep corporate profits private while socializing the risk.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Teacher Retention Story at Emery Draws Fire: Jobs Numbers Cloudy

The teacher retention story we posted on March 18th has generated many questions, as Emeryville residents feel let down yet again by the School District.  Certain people at Emery Unified felt the story was misleading.  At the Tattler, we take pride in telling both sides of the story and printing retractions when we are wrong or corrections when needed.  Information coming in from Emery independent of listings in a California education jobs resource contradicts it and at this point it's not clear exactly how many teacher positions the District is looking to fill.  The Superintendent refuses to talk with the Tattler.  One thing that IS clear however is the basic charge of the story, that Emery faces a teacher retention crisis, still stands.

First and foremost the Tattler did not make up facts for this story as the critics at the School District imply, for the March 18th story we printed the publicly available numbers from School Board meetings and Edjoin, the education job clearing house in California.  Our search of Edjoin listed 18 job positions representing 35 vacancies at Emery.  When we contacted Superintendent Rubio for a second source, he chose not to respond.  His assistant has now asserted that there are only seven vacancies in the District.  The table below lists the jobs posting.  Either the District is falsely advertising jobs, lying, or both.  The Tattler believes both, as they have five different listings for an Elementary Art position. 

Position being recruited
Counting as
MS science
Listed with HS position
HS science
Listed with MS position
5 different listings
Elementary 1-3
Ad states 3 openings
Elementary 4-6
Ad states 3 openings
MS math
Listed with HS position
HS math
Listed with MS position
HS English
Listed with HS position
MS English
Listed with MS position
Ad states 3 openings
MS Social Science
Single listing
Special Education
Single listing, likely more needed

Edjoin lists the following for certificated positions in Emery:
"Your search returned  18  job postings for a total of  35  job vacancies. Please click a job title below for detailed information about a specific posting. You can sort your results in both directions (ascending/descending) by clicking on a column header."

It is possible that a majority of the posted positions are anticipated and not actually vacant, yet if the district only has seven vacancies, why have they posted 12 different job titles? 

The question the community most asked as a result of the March 18th story is what do neighboring districts have posted.  Some said the large numbers at Emery are because of the general teacher shortage or this is just how education is today.  Looking at neighboring school district's jobs postings clears this up.
Looking at Edjoin, the neighboring districts to Emery had significantly fewer positions listed.   A search of Edjoin on March 20, 2017 showed only Oakland had more job opportunities posted.  However Oakland has 500 times the number of teachers but only ten times the number of postings but also, Oakland is in a hiring freeze at the moment. (Teacher FTE sourcing comes from the California Department of Education reports in 2015 except for Emery which comes from the Emery Board meeting on March 7, 2017 'fiscal assumptions'.)

Teacher Postings
Teacher FTE
Percent Open

The Tattler welcomes Superintendent Rubio to provide a written response as to why Emery is advertising positions that are filled.  He has at his fingertips all of the staff that were employed at the start of this school year and all of the teachers that have left or will leave the district at the end of the year.  Based on the personnel actions from the School Board meetings this school year, several teachers have left mid year, Mr Rubio can add to that the number of teachers that have resigned or been given non-reelection letters.  California law requires teachers to be notified by March 15 if they are being let go at the end of the year.  Most districts allow teachers to resign instead of being fired.  Other teachers may choose to give notice later after they have found a new job, so the numbers will not represent everyone, but will tell the story.
We invite Superintendent to take public account of his record on teacher retention by engaging with the community rather than shutting down engagement.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Failure: Teacher Retention Project at Emery Schools

Teachers Head For The Exits at Emery Unified
 School District

Newly Built Schools & Parcel Tax Notwithstanding
Emery Can Not Hang On to Its Teachers

News Analysis/Opinion
Will Emery Unified School District ever deliver on its promise to educate?
We've certainly done our part; Emeryville voters have up until now given Emery Unified School District whatever it asks for, be it bonds or a parcel tax.  What about the other side of the partnership?  When is Emery Unified going to deliver a school we can send our kids to?  

The success of a school or school district can be judged on many levels, academic achievement (test scores), employee satisfaction or turnover, balanced budgets, among other items.  Emery Unified specifically has made teacher retention a priority and the district extended a parcel tax, Measure K (2014) who's ballot language stated unequivocally: to recruit and retain qualified experienced 
teachers and staff.  Emery's Superintendent John Rubio, has failed on all these counts even with new school buildings at the Center of 'Community' Life and the extra parcel tax funds.  This invariably has a negative impact on the students that go to our schools.

"There is a shortage of good teachers, treat them poorly, they will go to better-paying districts where they are supported and appreciated."

Emery Unified reported in their budget update in March 2017, that there are 53 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions or “Certificated Staff”, which could include a Speech Therapist, Psychologist, and Nurse.  Currently, there are 21 vacancies posted for the “Certificated Staff” for 2017-18 school year at Emery Unified (see keywords: emery unified).  They are also looking for 10 Substitute Teachers.  They're going to need them.
This does not reflect well on a district of Emery’s size.  It is clear that there is a not a positive working environment, teacher morale is low and something is deeply wrong.  The departure of two teachers at Anna Yates during the middle of this school year is especially troubling.
One would be bright spot at Emery it was noted is a decrease in the payroll budget, however given that new teachers (and less experienced teachers) are paid less and this is responsible for the decrease, any good news is substantially attenuated.  
Emery Unified Schools Superintendent John Rubio
From his histrionic December 2016
letter to the Emeryville community:
"Last spring, we carefully paper screened over 250
teacher applicants to hire the best and the brightest
teachers we could find for your children."

Emery Unified has not delivered on its promise to Emeryville's voters who passed the Measure K parcel tax.  It is not recruiting nor retaining the number of quality teachers our kids deserve. Administration staff also plays a role in the stability of a school. With only one Administrative vacancy, this would appear to be progress. However, the posted position is for the elementary school principal and represents the third elementary Principal in as many years.  Add to that two high school principals, two curriculum directors, and the turnover in administrators at the critical positions is just as high.   It also begs the question, how are Measure K parcel tax funds not being spent on Administrator salaries (as required by law) when there are more administrators than recommended by the state.  Why a district of Emery’s size requires twelve administrators is unclear. That is one administrator for every 57 students (based on an enrollment of 682 students).

From Emery USD March 2017 budget report:
Posted Jobs
Posted Vacancies
Certificate (teachers)

* The classified positions are all for coaches and don't speak to employee satisfaction.

Why does this matter?  Because pedagogical experts and ordinary Emeryville citizens know that teachers are the key to academic achievement.  When 40% of your Certificated (teaching) staff need to be recruited for the upcoming school year, it raises eyebrows.  What can we expect our student progress towards math and english proficiency to look like this year?   We will find out our State scores in August.

This year, Superintendent John Rubio will be ending his third year with Emery Unified and given there are only 71 non-management positions, that is one manager for every six employees, six and half if you don't count the Superintendent.  With a school district that top heavy, we should expect some accountability for the unacceptable current state of affairs at Emery Unified School District.  Current Emeryville City Council member and former School Board Trustee Christian Patz, who during his Board tenure often publicly jousted with the Superintendent spoke to the obvious, "When I voted against renewing Dr Rubio's contract, I did so because I was aware of the negative culture in the district.  Teachers and administrators told me they feared retaliation if they spoke out.  There is a shortage of good teachers, treat them poorly, they will go to better-paying districts where they are supported and appreciated."

Superintendent Rubio refused to comment for this story.
This is what we get for all the money we've spent.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Emeryville Loses Summary Judgment in Yuvette Henderson Case

Judge Says Reasonable Person Could Surmise Police Used Excessive Force in Shooting

Federal Judge Donna Ryu ruled earlier this week against the City of Emeryville's request for a summary judgment in the civil wrongful death case brought by the family of Yuvette Henderson who was shot and killed by an Emeryville police officer in 2015, an action that will either bring a trial or a settlement.  In a sharply worded 20 page ruling, Judge Ryu threw out the request brought by the police to dismiss the case based on an internal EPD investigation in 2016 that cleared the police of any wrongdoing.

Federal Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu
Yuvette Henderson was "six feet away from her gun" 
and "turned away from it" when the 
Emeryville police officer fired the kill shot.
Judge Ryu noted a jury could plausibly decide Yuvette Henderson was wrongly killed because "Henderson did not pose an immediate threat to [the police officers] and because she was unarmed and wounded and because although she carried a gun, she had not previously fired or aimed at [the officers]."  The Judge added it is plausible a jury could reasonably decide the Emeryville police use of lethal force was "unreasonable and excessive" and that the officers had "several reasonable alternatives to lethal force."  Additionally, Judge Ryu noted forensic evidence and witness accounts contradicting the police version of events could plausibly sway a jury.
The Emeryville Police Department's 'not guilty' conclusion arrived after the investigation conducted by the police against itself wrought the civil case brought by the Henderson family, a criminal conviction having been precluded.
As a result of Judge Ryu's ruling, the case will now either go to trial or it will be settled and that decision will be made on March 28th.
An Emeryville taxpayer funded compensation looms as a likely scenario, attorneys following the case told the Tattler Monday.
Public interest in the Yuvette Henderson case
has not waned since the 2015 shooting.  A
large crowd waited for entry into Judge Ryu's
 courtroom for the summary judgment hearing
last month.

RULE Meeting

From RULE:

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Making our city a great place to live and work!  Come and plan for the year ahead with your progressive neighbors.

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Sat., March 18, 10:00 - 12:00


         -Council Member Dianne Martinez is our guest speaker

          -Planning and goals for RULE in 2017

Bring breakfast and tea provided
See you there!  Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee

Friday, February 24, 2017

City of Emeryville Attempts to Derail Civil Case in Yuvette Henderson Shooting

Summary Judgement Sought by Police 
in Wrongful Death Civil Case

Lurid, Grisly Courtroom Details From High Powered 
Police AR-15 Fire

Police Shooting "Illegal" Says Attorney
Woman Unarmed When Killed

Details of the killing of Yuvette Henderson by Emeryville police in 2015 were finally publicly revealed in a packed courtroom as Dan Siegel, an attorney retained by the Henderson family laid out the grisly last moments of the Oakland woman's life as part of a wrongful death civil case heard at the District Federal Court in Oakland Thursday.  Attorneys hired by the City of Emeryville, who contend Ms Henderson pointed a gun at the police and so were within their rights to kill the woman, attempted to stop the case in the hearing with a hoped for a summary judgment that will be decided by Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu on March 28th.
Mr Siegal showed forensic evidence that puts the Emeryville Police Department's claim that the woman "drew down" on one officer into question and further showed the last shots fired, including the kill shot by the police at the African American woman, were done after she had been incapacitated and unarmed.

Dan Siegel, the plaintiff's attorney in the emerging civil case said Ms Henderson may have had a gun but he noted that is immaterial to the illegal killing of her.  He testified that witnesses and a nearby security camera reveal there were three distinct volleys of fire from the Emeryville police officers on Ms Henderson.  Forensic evidence was presented that determined Ms Henderson was struck in the side of her chest on February 3rd, 2015 with a round from the police AR-15 rifle in volley two that passed through her right arm, shattering it and causing her gun to fly back at least six feet behind her.  After a pause, as Ms Henderson lay on the ground severely wounded and disarmed, is when the EPD officer with the assault rifle fired the kill shot from his assault rifle as part of volley three, striking Ms Henderson in the head as she attempted to lift her head Mr Siegel testified.

The police contend Ms Henderson had been involved in a shoplifting at Home Depot and she walked several blocks south to just inside Oakland on Hollis Street when they arrived at the scene. Officers maintain Ms Henderson was waiving the gun all around wildly when they got there.  They opened fire after yelling for Ms Henderson to drop her weapon.  She was not struck in volley one but after a pause she was shot in volley two when she faced one of the officers with the AR-15 and "drew down" on him with a pistol police said, regardless of the fact that she was struck in her side with the AR-15 round in the barrage of fire.  The other officer at the scene had a service revolver and was not successful in hitting Ms Henderson.  The police version of the 'draw down' was not corroborated by a witness questioned after the shooting.  The officers say they were fearful for their lives as a result of the gun in her possession.  After Ms Henderson was injured and on the ground they maintain she was attempting to get back up in order to rearm herself.  The video reveals the police did not yell out for the woman to stay down before they killed her.
The Emeryville Police Department admits Ms Henderson did not fire the revolver at their officers or anyone else at any time during the melee.  The two officers involved in the shooting had body-worn cameras but they were turned off according to the police.
Mr Siegel said there was testimony from the police taken after the shooting that changed after the existence of the security video was announced some days after the shooting took place.  Some of their testimony is contradicted by the video he said.

At a large gathering outside the Federal Courthouse on Clay Street after the hearing 11 AM, exiting courtroom attendees told the Tattler if Judge Ryu allows the case to go forward, the City of Emeryville will be forced to pay restitution to the family of Yuvette Henderson, an eventuality many gathered in solidarity with the Hendersons think likely.

There has been public outcry after the killing of Ms Henderson over the fact that the Emeryville police now routinely carry the high powered military style AR-15 rifle.  The killing of Yuvette Henderson is the first shooting by Emeryville police with their newly issued AR-15 rifles.  Colt AR-15 rifles have been determined to be assault rifles by the State of California and they have been banned for civilians.  The Chief of Police for the City of Emeryville says the State of California is wrong and the Colt AR-15 rifles Emeryville police carry are not assault rifles but rather simple sporting rifles as the NRA says.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

League of Woman Voters Brainstorm Called

From the local League of Woman Voters chapter:

The League of Women Voters Berkeley Albany Emeryville is hosting a brainstorming session Tuesday, February 17, 2017 from 7 pm to 9 pm at the Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline Street, Berkeley (across from the Ashby BART station).  The event is free, and we encourage registration.

TUES, FEB 21, 7 PM 

Are you energized by the Election or the Women’s March? The League wants to hear your ideas for effective post-election action! Our “Post-Election Action Brainstorm” will be on Tuesday, February 21st from 7-9pm at the Ed Roberts Campus. We will share our current projects, identify new avenues to affect change, and discuss follow-up action. Snacks and beverages will be served!

We want your ideas!
Want to find out about and support the post-election action of the national and state League via quick emails, phone calls or more?  Here’s how to do it:

Diz Swift

RULE Meeting

From RULE:

Residents United for a Livable Emeryville

Making our city a great place to live and work!  Come and plan for the year ahead with your progressive neighbors.

Next Meeting:  We're at Doyle St. for Saturday meetings 

Where:  5514 Doyle St., first floor common room
When:  Saturday, Feb. 18, 10:00 - 12:00 AM

       -Laura McCamy of the Bicycle/Pedestrian Committee             priorities for 2017

        -Planning and goals for RULE in 2017

Bring breakfast and tea provided

 See you there!  Judy Timmel, RULE Steering Committee

Thursday, February 9, 2017

City of Emeryville Suspects Black Women

City of Emeryville's Comfort Zone: 
Racist Stereotyping

All Black People Implicated As Crime Suspects 
 No Other Physical Descriptions Offered

Once again: Nothing about age, hair style/color, facial features, body type/height, clothing, or any other helpful descriptions.

Emeryville Police Chief
Jennifer Tejada

'Black females are suspects
in the Gap robbery'.
The City of Emeryville wants citizens to know there was a robbery at the Gap store at 5690 Bay Street in December and there are two "Black female" suspects still at large in that stolen merchandise case.  The City wants the people of Emeryville to be on the lookout for any Black females because they might have committed the crime and the police department needs help bringing them to justice.  To help citizens identify the suspects, the City of Emeryville tells us the females are "Black"....  No further descriptions are offered but the City thinks that's good enough to help us track the criminals down.  If it doesn't help directly solve the crime, it will likely get the citizens to look at Black females with more suspicion.  Perhaps that's the real reason for the paucity of descriptions offered by the City of Emeryville's crime blotter.

December's listing is from the Emeryville Police crime blotter published by the City of Emeryville every month.  The December Bay Street robbery with its two Black female suspects is added to the November robbery the City alerted us to at 6399 Christie Avenue with its three "Black male" suspects and the 3839 Emery Street shoplifting case involving a "Black female", both cases offered in the Emeryville Police Department crime statistics blotter posted on the City's website.
In all these cases, no other descriptions are offered by the City other than the 'Black' race and gender of the suspects.  It's likely enough to get many citizens to look at all Black people more suspiciously.   And that's seen as a good thing by the City of Emeryville.  We know this is true because they wouldn't have posted the crime blotter in November and December without physical and other descriptions of the crime suspects otherwise.

Emeryville City Manager
Carolyn Lehr

'Black males and Black females
are crime suspects in Emeryville.
Help us find them'. 
After the Tattler alerted the people to this racist practice by our city last month, the City has now doubled down on the racial stereotyping in its publicly posted crime blotter.  Whereas before, it could have been seen as possibly nothing more than insensitivity, epic insensitivity, now it's obvious this is all intentional.  Implicated in the racist stereotyping is the Chief of Police Jennifer Tejada and the City Manager Carolyn Lehr.  The Chief of Police works for the City Manager and the City Council hires the City Manager.  Starting next month, if the public posting of the crime blotter goes on depicting Black people as suspects (or any other people for that matter) without any other descriptions offered other then gender, the City Council too will be dragged into this.  They've been warned.
Watch this space.

From Emeryville's December crime blotter:
Robbery: In District 5 at The Gap, 5690 Bay St., four females concealed clothing in a bag and attempted to leave the store without paying. As the employee grabbed the merchandise from one of the suspects, the suspect punched the employee. The suspects then fled the store with the loss. LOSS: Miscellaneous clothing. Suspects: #1 Female, unknown race, wearing a white pom pom hat, long braids, and a light colored jacket. #2 Black female with short red hair, no further description. #3 and #4 Black females, no further description. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Emeryville City Council: 'I Got Your Pledge of Allegiance Right Here'

City Council Sticks It To Trump/Fox News

After voting at their last meeting to dispense with the public administering of the loyalty oath known as the Pledge of Allegiance before each City Council meeting, tonight the Council led the first halting if out of key rendition of the populist collectivist Woody Guthrie song from the Depression era, 'This Land Is Your Land'.  It's out with God and country and in with godless communism in Emeryville.  The minute right wing Council matriarch Nora Davis is out the door, her (formerly) beloved Emeryville City Council goes all flakey.  What's next?  Providing accountability at City Hall?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

More Demolition in Emeryville's "Area of Stability"

Emeryville's Last Stand of True Family Friendly Housing in Peril

Detached Single Family Residences Make Way For Apartment Blocks in Triangle/North Emeryville Neighborhoods

Big Changes Coming to the Areas of 'Stability'

1 :  the quality, state, or degree of being stable: such as   a :  the strength to stand or endure :  firmness 
2 : the quality or state of something that is not easily changed or likely to change

News Analysis
As development pressures continue to mount in Emeryville, another detached single family home faces the wreaking ball in order to make way for another techie four-plex on Ocean Avenue as was presented at a Planning Commission study session last week.  The looming demolition could represent the beginning of a gathering storm of such single family to four-plex conversions in the City's last traditional family oriented neighborhoods despite prohibitions spelled out in the General Plan against demolition in designated "areas of stability".  The Ocean Avenue development is in such a designated zone and to move it forward, the City is re-interpreting the word stability to include the ability to demolish, a expansion of developer prerogative from only two years ago.  Further, the City is now interpreting language encouraging density embedded in the General Plan to exacerbate and actually encourage the demolition of the remaining single family residences in Emeryville, a subversion of the idea of stability.

Detached Single Family Home
The first choice for actual Emeryville families but
limited to the Triangle and North Emeryville
neighborhoods. The last true family friendly 

housing and a feeder for the School District.
The 1270 Ocean Avenue four-plex development proposal (presented at the January 26th Planning Commission meeting) would dramatically increase the building height over the existing single family home as well as the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) on the property and of course it would also increase the residential density.  Those qualities are all within the bounds of Emeryville's zoning ordinance for the neighborhood (with development bonuses) and in fact the demolition and increase in density has earned the developer coveted FAR bonuses allowing for much less landscaped or open space on the site.

The City's realignment to interpret the zone of stability to mean a zone of demolition has moved the needle a far amount in just two years.  At another site (also on Ocean Avenue) the community was in an uproar when a developer bought a single family home with an eye to demolish it to build a four-plex but the City invoked the stability clause in the General Plan.  That move prompted the developer to let the home sit vacant for several years letting rot to take hold of the unmaintained structure.  The developer then made a successful argument that the home was beyond repair and he was granted permission to build his four-plex.

That was then, this is now.  Now the staff doesn't even see the idea of demolition as problematic.  At 1270 Ocean, the staff is encouraging the approval of the project but they didn't even bother to tell the Planning Commission at the January 26th meeting the proposed development falls within the zone of stability as identified by the General Plan, a designation meant until recently to curtail such demolition conversions.

Apartment Building
Despite some three bedroom units, families don't 

 want to live here.  Developers throw in children's 
play equipment but families vote with their feet.
The staff's failure to disclose to the Planning Commission decision makers the fact that 1270 Ocean Avenue falls within the zone of stability may be an omission that's more than an oversight.

'Stability' Taken to Mean 'Demolition'
Outside of Emeryville, the word 'stability' is generally used to mean 'not anticipated to change substantially' and 'the strength to stand or endure'.  Even here, the General Plan itself uses the standard definition; in its designated areas of stability in town, the General Plan states "Areas of stability are those parts of the city that are not anticipated to change significantly in character, land use or development intensity over the next 20 years [the life of the General Plan]. "

The definition of the word stability becomes more expansive in the way the staff now sees it, including demolition of the stock of single family homes in town: "Stability doesn't mean NO change" a staff member who wished anonymity told the Tattler regarding 1270 Ocean.  The salient part of 'stability' according to City Hall is not the enduring nature of the housing types but rather that the new apartment buildings fit in with the character of the neighborhood in the aggregate as is spelled out in the General Plan the staff tells us, apparently lacking a sense of irony.

The Last Developer Battleground in Emeryville
The City Hall expanded definition of stability will serve as a windfall for developers seeking avenues for profit after the 25 year Emeryville building boom.  The boom has left the older residential neighborhoods, the areas of stability, the last place left to turn a profit.  The last three large development projects in town, Anton/Nady, the Marketplace and Sherwin Williams (primarily residential developments) approved last year, together collectively represent the last of the large residential projects that will be built in our town for at least 20 years (the average lifespan of a typical commercial building being about 30 years).  Residential developers, long given the keys to Emeryville by City Council majorities over the years, now have few opportunities left here and so it is understandable they would turn to the zones of stability to eek out the last little bit from our town.

A quick back-of-the-napkin calculation shows the potential for handsome profits; home prices in these two Emeryville neighborhood zones of stability run about $500K to $600K for a fixer upper.  Tear down costs are about $30K and building costs run less than $1 million for a four-plex.  Sale price would be about $800K for the upper end market (times four) leaving about $1.5 million made over six to eight months.  After financing costs are figured in, a tidy profit remains.  That's not enough to interest the biggest developers we've been attracting up till now but plenty of mid-sized developers would gladly enter this field.  All it takes to get the party started is a re-defining of the word stability to open the floodgates to developers.  And that's something the staff at City Hall has already taken care of.

The Late Great Single Family Residence
This is how the City of Emeryville defines
a stable neighborhood.
Single family detached residences are by far the most popular type of housing for families.  Among other advantages, the private backyards associated with this kind of housing permits young children to play unattended, parents the time to do the myriad things that need attending to besides their children.  This kind of housing is abundant in the suburbs and it's the primary reason young parents often decamp for the leafy hinterlands.  Emeryville's housing stock at this point is only a small fraction detached single family (and it's all in the zones of stability), but the two zones of stability are the biggest feeder areas as a percentage for children attending the Emery Unified School District.
But after developing the rest of our town, it is here, the last low density places left in Emeryville where developers now turn to extract their profits.   The word 'stability' is meant to stop this from happening regardless any new interpretation by City Hall.

With a staff willing to overtly turn the meaning of the word stability on its head to facilitate the remake of these last traditional neighborhoods in town, some might find it curious that the General Plan uses the word stability to describe what should be done with the single family home neighborhoods when it presumably would be easier to facilitate the demolition of these last homes in Emeryville without that word in the Plan.  Why is the word stability used for the North Emeryville residential neighborhood and the Triangle neighborhood in our General Plan?

The idea of the zones of stability rose up when during the public vetting process for the formulation of the new general plan in 2009, residents were alarmed that the staff was pushing such an increase in density for our town (compared to our former general plan).  The allowable huge building height increases and residential density increases over the old plan were a cause of concern for the residents.  The zones of stability were added to mollify criticism because at that time, most Emeryville residents lived in these zones.  Now after so many new apartment projects having been built outside the zones of stability, this is no longer the case it's helpful to know.

1270 Ocean Avenue
The little home on the right with the gardens and
large backyard will become a three story wall.
The final irony is that unless the new building replacing the former single family residence has at least 10 units, the project need not be constrained by Emeryville's family friendly housing ordinance.  Thus, 1270 Ocean Avenue at four units (eight if the ground floor bedrooms with their own baths and separate entrances are subsequently rented out via Airbnb) will not be built as a 'family friendly' project.

1270 Ocean Avenue, while certainly not the first demolition of a single family home in a zone of stability since the new General Plan was certified, will add to the precedent being built up that will prove harder to resist if a resistance were ever to be mounted.

Amend the General Plan
The drive for home demolition in East Emeryville is further buttressed by a provision in the code that makes density like a one way check valve; it can only go up, never down.  A tear down of a duplex say could only happen if the developer built at least a replacement if not a triplex or more.  And that means over time the zones of stability will be completely made over and Emeryville's last single family residences will cease to exist.
A fix for the bad optics for Emeryville, its oft repeated claims of being a family friendly town running at cross purposes with language that encourages demolition of the most family friendly housing in town, would be to amend the General Plan.  The most obvious amendment would be to eliminate the zones of stability altogether to remove the hypocrisy.  Another amendment could be to keep the zones of stability but remove the language that encourages developers to demolish these family homes.  The City of Emeryville is probably most comfortable leaving be the mutually exclusive provisions ensconced in the General Plan.  It's the path of least resistant even if it is so easily construed as hypocritical.

Map from Emeryville's General Plan
1270 Ocean Avenue is located between Ocean and Peabody Lane; the zone of stability