KQED’s Historic ‘Million Dollar Mudflats’ Special Resurfaced

1 min read

Ken Bukowski and his EPOA group have turned their focus to cataloging city videos onto their YouTube channel and in the process have unearthed some absolute treasures. The source of most of the videos are from the city’s own archives as well as Ken’s personal collection of VHS tapes and DVD’s that he has laboriously digitally encoded & uploaded. In addition to City Council & Planning Commission meetings (like the gem below of longtime resident Andre Carpieux throwing a microphone at the City Council in 2006!), Ken has dug up some rare coverage of a turbulent era in our city that most of us are unfamiliar with.

“Million Dollar Mudflats” is a 30-minute KQED special that takes us through the notoriously corrupt “John LaCoste era” prior to the pivotal 1983 election that saw a major shake-up in Emeryville Politics. The video begins with the 1928 “Rottenest City on the Pacific Coast” era of Emeryville when we had streetcars and a ferry to SF (Hmmm) and into the high-rise development boom that saw the construction of the Watergate and the massive Pacific Park Plaza. As Lacoste drives the reporter around town (in a DeLorean no less), he points out the southern Triangle of San Pablo & 36th street that he contends “used to have the vast majority of problems” including narcotics and prostitution.

Emeryville’s population was 3,400. Popular nightclub destinations were “Silks” at the current spot of Public Market and “The Shanty” on Park Avenue. The two Emeryville news sources were “The Guardian” and “The Eagle” and city council was split between pro-development Fox, Spriggs and Golden and pro-resident Davenport and Heintz. There was a clear distinction between East & West Emeryville. West Emeryville was home to the “affluent & trendy” and the East side was home to Emeryville’s “old-timers”. It’s eerie how much has changed … yet somehow is so familiar!


The KTVU coverage (with longtime anchor Dennis Richmond) of the corresponding election can be viewed here:

Former Council member Bukowski is doing quite a service to the community as most of the city videos prior to 2009 have not been made accessible to the public and the media coverage of major outcomes of the battles waged have been lost in the sands of time. I can’t wait to see what he unearths next! A transcript of this video can be read here.


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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. I lived in Emeryville for several months in 1980. Your film recalled so many memories, not least seeing John LaCoste getting in his De Lorean.
    It really was the Wild West at that time.

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